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Retail REIT Execs Remain Upbeat

Some of the largest U.S. shopping center owners and operators remain largely unconcerned that the ongoing credit crisis and consumer-spending slowdown will lead to plummeting occupancy rates and slumping values for their properties.

Rather, several top executives participating in a panel discussion on Wednesday at a Wachovia Corp. investor conference in New York said their real estate investment trusts have portfolios large and diverse enough to withstand the market turbulence. Some noted that U.S. retailers, while nervous about this holiday season's results, still haven't signaled a major pullback in their expansion plans.

"It's a little hard for me to get too nervous when we talk about a maybe ever-so-slight downturn in the economy that could be a mild recession, might be a soft landing, but we don't know," said Andrew Alexander, chief executive officer of Weingarten Realty Investors, a shopping-center REIT based in Houston. "Our business is extremely recession-resistant. When you look at what's happened to all of our stock prices, it's a heck of an opportunity (considering) the stability of all of our platforms."

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