UPDATE 1-General Growth Q4 funds from operations up
* FFO rises despite lower occupancy rates
* Says lenders not yet exercising remedy rights (Adds details on results, company challenges)
NEW YORK Feb 23 (Reuters) - General Growth Properties Inc (GGP.N: Cotización), the No. 2 U.S. mall owner that has warned it may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, said on Monday quarterly funds from operations rose despite lower occupancy rates.
General Growth, which is struggling to refinance billions of dollars in debt, said fourth-quarter funds from operations, or FFO, were $222 million, 70 cents per share, compared with $190.4 million, or 64 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.
Analysts, on average, had forecast FFO of 86 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates. FFO is a performance measure of a real estate investment trust that strips out depreciation.
The company, which has an ownership position or manages over 200 regional shopping malls in 44 states, reported nil earnings per share, compared with 24 cents per share in the year-earlier period.
Retail center occupancy fell to 92.5 percent at year-end, from 93.8 percent at the end of 2007, and cost reductions failed to fully offset revenue declines.
Sales per square foot, on a trailing 12-month basis, decreased 4.2 percent, compared with the year-ago period.
Last week global real estate services firm Real Capital Analytics ranked General Growth as the No. 1 distressed real estate services company in the world. It is facing $27 billion of obligations, including $4.1 billion due on March 15. Continuación...