* First-quarter FFO shr $0.13 vs. shr $0.15
* Occupancy declines 0.30 percentage points
NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - Warehouse and distribution center owner ProLogis (PLD.N) posted higher first-quarter funds from operations, a key metric for a real estate investment trust, but missed Wall Street's forecast as lower interest expense was offset by lower operating income.
The company said first-quarter core FFO, which excludes $12.9 million in charges related to past mergers and expected costs related to earthquake damage in Japan, rose to $74.4 million, or 13 cents per share, from $52.3 million, or 11 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter.
Analysts on average had expected 15 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Denver-based ProLogis ended the quarter with occupancy at 90.7 percent, down from 92 percent at the end of the fourth quarter. Rental rates on new leases were 9.2 percent lower than rates on expiring leases, better than the prior and year-earlier quarters.
Earlier this year, ProLogis said it expected rental rates to decline by the single digits this year.
The company is set to merge with rival AMB Property Corp AMB.N. (Reporting by Ilaina Jonas, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)