The corporate credit rating of Weingarten Realty Investors, a Houston-based real estate investment trust, has been lowered from A to A-minus by Standard & Poor's.In addition, Weingarten reported that its senior unsecured debt was downgraded from A to A-minus, and its cumulative preferred shares were downgraded from A-minus to BBB-plus. Noting that these ratings "are still among the highest" in the REIT industry, Weingarten attributed the downgrades to a strategy announced earlier this year that involves additional leverage and an increase in the use of joint ventures. The strategy includes a "significant increase" in development and an "aggressive" acquisition program. "Management had the option of issuing additional common equity to maintain leverage ratios, but chose not to dilute the interests of existing shareholders," said Steve Richter, the REIT's executive vice president and chief financial officer. The company can be found online at http://www.weingarten.com.

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