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Cousins Properties Leases to Lockton

Zacks Equity Research

Cousins Properties Incorporated (CUZ) recently inked a lease agreement with Lockton Companies for a 99,000 square feet office space at a Class A office building – 2100 Ross – in the Arts District. This strategic move was in line with the company’s intention of strengthening its bond with upscale companies.

Notably, the new lease deal signifies office expansion for Lockton companies at the property. The company will occupy 11th through 14th floor of the office building. Kansas City, Miss.-based Lockton is the world's largest, privately-owned, independent insurance broker. It provides insurance, benefits and risk management services for business improvement to over 15,000 clients across the globe.

The 33-story, 2100 Ross building spans 844,000 square feet and is positioned at the City Center District of downtown Dallas, Texas. The property is currently 78% occupied and boasts some industry-leading tenants such as CBRE Group Inc. (CBG), Prudential Mortgage Capital of Prudential Financial Inc. (PRU) and Bank of America Merrill Lynch of Bank of America Corporation (BAC).

Cousins Properties acquired 2100 Ross building in Aug 2012 and it was 67% occupied that time. Notably, this real estate investment trust (:REIT) invested in a comprehensive capital improvement plan for the development of the building.

We remain impressed with the Cousins Properties’ abovementioned leasing deal as the latter will strengthen its foothold in vibrant downtown Dallas market. Moreover, it will augment the Cousins Properties’ strong tenant base.

Last month, Cousins Properties reported fourth quarter 2012 core FFO (fund from operations) per share of 15 cents, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a nickel. However, core FFO missed the year-ago figure by a penny.

The solid performance was attributable to strong leasing activity and successful execution of other strategic initiatives. Notably, Cousins Properties leased 184,000 square feet of office space and 106,000 square feet of retail space during the fourth quarter.

Cousins Properties currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Note: FFO, a widely used metric to gauge the performance of REITs, are obtained after adding depreciation, amortization and other non-cash expenses to net income.

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