Kimco Realty Corp., the largest owner of suburban shopping centers in North America, has sold its interests in a portfolio of 17 properties in Canada for $324 million.

The portfolio was sold to Anthem Properties Group Ltd, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based real estate investment and development company, and includes the assumption of $160.7 million of mortgage debt. The portfolio totals 1.8 million square feet of retail space.

Since December, Kimco, a New Hyde Park-based real estate investment trust, has sold 26 Canadian properties representing 85 percent of its net operating income there.

The portfolio sale — which comes after two other property sales this quarter — is part of an ongoing exit strategy from the country as Kimco seeks to focus more on its U.S. properties. The company now has interests in only nine Canadian shopping centers.

David Bujnicki, senior vice president of investor relations and strategy for Kimco, said that while the Canadian market provided a “wonderful opportunity” when Kimco expanded there around 2002, the problem “was that we lacked an operating platform in Canada and had to rely on joint venture partners to manage these properties for us, which in effect made us strictly a capital allocator.”

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“We do our best to create value through the actual owning and operating of properties as opposed to having someone else do it for us,” Bujnicki added.

Real estate investment trusts, or REITs, must return a majority of profits to investors. REITs like Kimco, which owns the Airport Plaza shopping center in Farmingdale, are publicly traded.

Kimco announced the sale after market close Thursday. Its shares closed at $29.28 and were unchanged in afterhours trading.