In a sign of the strong market for grocery-anchored retail properties, Boston-based shopping center owner Heritage Property Investment Trust pulled off a successful IPO this week — the first real estate company to do so since 1998.

Heritage, which owns 142 shopping centers in 26 states, began trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol HTG. Heritage’s stock price reached a high of $25.03 in two days of trading and hasn’t fallen below its initial offering price of $25 per share.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the initial offering of 18 million shares netted Heritage about $310 million for roughly 44% of the company. That money will be used to pay back a loan from Fleet National Bank and to pay off unsecured debt. Prudential Financial Inc. owns a 12% stake in Heritage following the IPO.

Merril Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc. was the IPO’s main underwriter along with seven investment banks.

Background

Heritage is a fully integrated, self-administered and self-managed REIT. The company acquires, owns, manages, leases and redevelops primarily grocery-anchored neighborhood and community shopping centers in the Eastern and Midwestern United States. It is one of the largest owners and operators of neighborhood and community shopping centers in the country, ranking18th on Shopping Center World's 2002 Top Owners list and 20th in the magazine's ranking of top managers.

Heritage owns seven office buildings and 11 single-tenant properties. The company incorporated in Maryland in July 1999 as the successor to a company formed in 1970 to manage the real estate investments of the New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension Fund, or NETT.

Heritage, which earned revenues of about $255 million in 2001, has a total of 108 employees. Thomas C. Prendergast is its president and CEO. Gary Widett is COO, and David Gaw is CFO.

— Staff and wire reports