Simon Property Group Inc (SPG.N) reported higher-than-expected third-quarter funds from operations, partly on lower operating costs, and the company raised the low end of its forecast for the year.

Funds from operations, or FFO, rose 2 percent to $473.1 million, or $1.38 per share, from $463.9 million, or $1.61 per share, a year earlier, the largest U.S. real estate investment trust said on Friday.

Analysts had expected $1.32 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

FFO for the third quarter of 2009 reflected about 52 million more shares than the prior year. FFO removes the profit-reducing effect of depreciation, a noncash accounting item.

We are encouraged to see continued improvement in the capital markets and from our retailers, David Simon, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. Accordingly, today we are increasing the low-end and maintaining the high-end of our 2009 FFO guidance range, even after the impact of our August $500 million unsecured notes issuance, which was not in our previous guidance.

Simon said it expects FFO for 2009 of $5.40 to $5.50 per share, up from its prior forecast of $5.35 to $5.50 per share. Analysts had forecast $5.43 per share.

By the end of the quarter, Simon had more than $4 billion of cash on hand and $3 billion of available capacity in its revolving credit facility.

Shares of Simon dipped slightly in thin pre-market trade on Thursday