A partnership of Santa Monica-based Watt Commercial Properties and Australia's Centro Properties Group completed their $1.2 billion acquisition of a publicly traded company portfolio of East Coast retail centers.

The partnership, Centro Watt, plans to privatize Kramont Realty Trust of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., nearly quadruple Centro Watt's holdings.

Centro Watt now owns 17 million square feet of retail space on the West Coast and in the Southeastern and Northeastern U.S.

"This acquisition is a strong addition to our existing portfolio of community and neighborhood retail centers," said Jim Maginn, chief executive of Watt Commercial Properties and Centro Watt, in a press release. "It continues our strategy of geographic diversification and expansion in a highly competitive market for retail property acquisitions."

Kramont posted 2004 net income of $25.9 million before preferred stock distributions, versus $23.3 million the prior year, according to the company's Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Rental revenues rose to $118.3 million from $108.5 million.

The Kramont deal is the largest transaction by Centro Watt since its formation two years ago and it represents the fourth acquisition secured on its behalf by Watt Realty Advisors, the investment vehicle for homebuilding titan Ray Watt, chairman of John Laing Homes.

Kramont's portfolio contains 93 neighborhood and community retail centers totaling 12.6 million square feet. The properties will now be held by Centro Watt America REIT, a private real estate investment trust that will be managed by Centro Watt.

"These retail centers fit the Centro Watt acquisition criteria, are well located and post solid returns," said John Wickser, managing director of Watt Realty Advisors, in a press release. Wickser led the acquisition team.

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