Chicago-based Equity Residential is selling its Lexford Housing Division to affiliates of Empire Group Holdings, a Montvale, N.J.-based private company, for a cash price of $1.086 billion.The Lexford Housing Division is made up of 289 properties, consisting of 27,115 apartment units located in 10 states, as well as a Columbus, Ohio-based property management business, Equity Residential reported. "We will use the proceeds of this transaction to continue transforming our portfolio by reducing the number of markets in which we operate and focusing on markets that we believe will provide better growth prospects and higher total returns," said David J. Neithercut, Equity Residential's president and chief executive. Equity Residential purchased Lexford Residential Trust in 1999 for about $738 million, according to the real estate investment trust. The company said it expects to receive about $850 million of net sale proceeds after closing expenses and repayment of about $210 million of secured debt. A total book gain of about $430 million is expected from the sale, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, the REIT said. It can be found online at http://www.equityapartments.com.

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