Property: Westfield Sells More Malls

By Aireview | April 19, 2012 10:53 AM IST

Westfield Group has announced its second big disposal of US shopping centres in two months.

The company revealed yesterday that it will sell eight US shopping centres for $US1.15 ($A1.11) billion so it can pay down debt and invest in developments like the new World Trade Centre.

The shopping centre giant said Starwood Capital Group would own the majority interest in seven of the centres while the eighth, Eastland in California, is being sold in a separate transaction.

Back in February, the company revealed that it was selling a stake in 12 US malls to a Canadian pension fund for about $A1.85 billion.

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Westfield said it was forming a $A4.8 billion joint venture with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).

Westfield also said it had sold its interest in three shopping centres in the UK for $A240 million.

The funds raised in February would be used to fund a buyback of 10% of its stock.

That sent the securities up more than 6% to a seven-month high of $A8.92.

Yesterday's news saw the securities rise 3.3% or 30c to $9.17.

   In other words the securities had fallen from that seven month peak reached in February until yesterday's announcement.

Westfield Co-CEO Peter Lowy said in yesterday's statement that the sales represented another step in the company's strategic plan to increase return on equity and long-term earnings growth.

"The proceeds from the transactions will initially pay down corporate debt and then be redeployed in higher-return redevelopment opportunities in the US, including the World Trade Centre," Mr Lowy said in a statement.

"We have previously flagged the potential divestment of non-core assets in the US and this transaction is an important step in the repositioning of our portfolio to major retail assets with strong franchise characteristics."

Westfield said the transaction values were approximately equal with the current book value of the assets.

The sales are expected to have an annualised dilutionary impact to the group's funds from operations of about 2c per security, prior to the redeployment of capital and the impact of any buy-back of Westfield Group securities.

The group's forecast distribution for the 2012 year of 49.5c per security remains unchanged.

Starwood would manage and control the platform with Westfield retaining a 10% interest, Westfield said.

The Starwood transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012.

Westfield agreed to sell Eastland, a power centre in West Covina, California for $US147 million ($A142.42 million).

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