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People walk past rental signs of RioCan's E2 development near Yonge St., and Eglinton Avenue, in Toronto, on Aug. 15, 2019.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust says it is well-positioned to weather challenges in the retail landscape as it focuses on necessity-based retailers and major urban centres.

“While there’s no question the retail landscape is evolving and it’s full of challenges, RioCan is ideally suited to succeed in this environment,” said Jonathan Gitlin, president and COO on an analyst call Thursday.

He said the REIT’s retail mix is focused on “necessity retailers” such as grocers and pharmacies, while it has reduced its exposure to internet-exposed sectors like department stores and apparel to less than 8.5 per cent of total revenue.

Overall, RioCan has sold off about 10 million square feet of retail space in secondary markets for about $1.6 billion since Oct. 2017, while making $1.2 billion in major-market acquisitions.

“To put it simply, we’ve repositioned our portfolio,” Gitlin said.

Major markets represented 90.1 per cent of revenue in 2019, up from 85.4 per cent a year earlier. The Greater Toronto Area alone represented 52.4 per cent of revenue for the year, up from 46.8 per cent a year earlier.

Profit edged up to $150.8 million in the latest quarter, from $149.2 million in the same quarter a year earlier.

Earnings for the quarter worked out to 48 cents per diluted unit for the quarter ended Dec. 31, down from 49 cents per diluted unit in the fourth quarter of 2018 when it had fewer units outstanding.

RioCan’s funds from operations totalled $146.1 million or 46 cents per unit for the quarter ended Dec. 31. The result compared with funds from operations of $138.4 million or 45 cents per unit in the last three months of 2018.

RioCan owns, manages and develops retail-focused and increasingly mixed-use properties in Canada’s major markets.

It had 220 properties at Dec. 31, including 14 development properties.

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