Colonial Properties Trust has sold six regional malls to an Australian joint venture for $362 million. Colonial (NYSE: CLP), a diversified REIT, will retain a 10% minority stake in the properties as well as the management and leasing assignments. The buyer, GPT Group, is one of Australia’s largest property investors. GPT is teaming up with fellow Australian firm Babcock & Brown on the deal. Granite Partners represented both sides of the deal. The malls represent 3.7 million sq. ft. of retail space located primarily in the southeastern U.S.

“This substantially completes the company’s objective to reposition our retail portfolio to open-air shopping centers, reducing the net operating income from our mall assets from 31% in 2004 to roughly 4% in 2006,” says Charles Light, executive vice president of Colonial Properties’ retail division.

“While we have reduced our focus on malls, we expect to increase our exposure to the retail sector in open-air shopping centers through development.”

Net proceeds from the portfolio sale will total roughly $350 million, and Colonial Properties will reinvest roughly $90 million of that sum. The balance of that sum will be used to trim the company’s debt load.