Highwoods forecasts strong 2015

Highwoods Properties reported late Tuesday fourth-quarter earnings that narrowly beat the estimates of Wall Street analysts.

The Raleigh real estate investment trust's funds from operations, a profitability measure for REITs, was 74 cents per share for the quarter after excluding the extinguishing of debt and property acquisition costs. That was half a penny above the consensus of Wall Street analysts who cover the company.

For the year, Highwoods reported FFO of $2.91, a penny more than was forecast by analysts.

For 2015, Highwoods expects FFO to be between $2.95 and $3.06. At its midpoint, this would represent a 6 percent increase from 2014.

"We are benefiting from more positive economic conditions, particularly in the Southeast," CEO Ed Fritsch said in a statement.

Highwoods, the largest office landlord in the Triangle, owns 31.1 million square feet of property in Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis, Nashville, Orlando, Pittsburgh, the Triangle, Richmond, Tampa and the Triad.

The company had one of its most active years in its history last year, as it acquired $165 million in assets while selling $195 million. The company announced $347 million in new development projects which are 92 percent pre-leased.

Highwoods leased 5.5 million square feet for the year, and increased its occupancy by 2 percentage points to 91.9 percent. Rents on its second-generation leases were 9 percent higher compared with the prior year.

Highwoods shares closed Tuesday at $46.31, down 28 cents. The stock is up 24 percent over the past year.