NEW YORK — Taubman Centers Inc. on Monday reported split fourth-quarter results — a 22.1 percent drop in net income combined with a 21.3 percent surge in funds from operations, a common measuring tool among real estate investment trusts (REITs).

For the three months ended Dec. 31, net income fell to $2.8 million, translating to a loss of 3 cents per share after distribution of preferred dividends, from net income of $3.6 million, or a 1 cent loss, in the year-ago quarter.

However, funds from operations jumped 21.3 percent to $41.7 million, or 49 cents a diluted share, from $34.4 million, or 41 cents, last year. The gain was boosted by an 11.3 percent hike in revenues to $184.2 million from $165.4 million.

Robert S. Taubman, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement: "We believe these results validate the strength of our assets, our strategies, and the opportunities for this company going forward. We have the most productive portfolio of regional malls in the country and are well-positioned for significant growth."

Those assets, as reported, attracted the eye of Simon Property Group. Simon first offered $18 a share for Taubman, but recently upped its bid to $20, this time with Westfield America as a partner. The joint-venture partners have set Feb. 14 as the deadline for their takeover bid.

Taubman Centers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month a letter it sent to employees regarding the status of Simon’s offer. The letter recapped the latest developments in the war for the mall operator, including the termination of the voting agreements that certain nonfamily stockholders granted to Robert Taubman.

The letter also referred to the Feb. 14 deadline as "illusory and irrelevant to the outcome of Simon’s unsolicited hostile takeover offer." It pointed out that Simon needs two-thirds of the 84 million voting shares, or 56 million shares, for it to succeed. Since Taubman family members hold approximately 30 percent of the voting shares and are opposed to the offer, the company deemed Simon’s attempt at taking over the REIT "extremely unlikely to happen."

Simon also did well in the fourth quarter, reporting on Thursday an 11 percent gain in its funds from operations to $232.9 million from $209.9 million. Income racked up a gain of 119.4 percent to $96.3 million from $43.9 million.For the year, Taubman’s income skyrocketed 88.4 percent to $14.4 million, or a loss of 5 cents a share, from $7.7 million, or an 18 cent loss, a year ago. The per-share loss follows preferred dividends in the year of $16.6 million. Funds from operations rose 21.5 percent to $145.1 million, or $1.72 a diluted share, from $119.5 million, or $1.44, in 2001. Revenues were up 17.8 percent to $665.1 million from $564.4 million.

Although comparable-center sales-per square-foot declined 1.5 percent to $456 from $463, other metrics were positive. Comparable-center ending occupancy for the year was 90.2 percent versus 88.6 percent a year ago, while comparable-center leased space on Dec. 31 was 93.4 percent, up from 91.6 percent in 2001. The average rent-per-square-foot was $41.91, up 1 percent from $41.55 in 2001.

According to Taubman: "Taubman Centers’ sales-per-square-foot and rent-per-square-foot performance continue to lead the industry. This year, we have redesigned our leasing processes in order to get stores open faster and we are beginning to see the benefits in our occupancy."

Separately, the company announced the expansion of its existing stock buyback program to repurchase up to an additional $100 million of the company’s common shares. Purchases will be financed through general corporate funds, including the anticipated $50 million investment in the company by Sheldon Gordon.

As reported, the company expects the investment in connection with the Gordon transaction for The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas. The Forum Shops houses as tenants many high-end retail names, including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Escada and Bulgari.

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