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Amid Amazon competition, Westfield malls sold for $15.7B

13 December 2017, 06:09 | Gordon Grant

Westfield shopping centres owner to be taken over by French property giant Unibail-Rodamco

Westfield owned by businessman Sir Frank Lowy accepted the multi-billion dollar bid from French retail group Unibail Rodamco 64 years after it was founded in Sydney

"The acquisition of Westfield is a natural extension of Unibail-Rodamco's strategy of concentration, differentiation and innovation", Unibail CEO Christophe Cuvillier said in a news release. The company also is developing malls in Brussels and Hamburg, Germany, according to The Times.

Unibail-Rodamco, based in Paris, is the result of a 2007 merger of two French property investment firms.

Westfield said it owns 35 shopping malls valued at $32 billion.

As sales fall so do retail property prices, to the point where they become attractive as a discount to asset value. Westfield, which started off in Sydney in the 1950s, is known for its 35 upscale shopping centers in major metropolitan areas, particularly in the USA and Britain.

Unibail-Rodamco, in announcing the deal with Westfield, said it hoped to extend "the world famous Westfield brand" to its properties, and to acquire new properties in key markets such as New York City and strong properties like the Plaza.

Not yet. Unibail-Rodamco's value fell as much as 4.1% on news of the deal. In the Los Angeles area, it has the newly renovated Century City mall, as well as its Culver City, Topanga & the Village, Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks, and Santa Anita malls. Unibail-Rodamco shares have fallen 1.2 percent.

Recently knighted chairman Mr Lowy along with his co-executive sons Steven and Peter are set to vote in favour of the spectacularly high-priced deal but it will mean nothing to Australian shoppers
Australian retail giant Westfield to be taken over by foreign owners in a massive $32.8BILLION deal

Unibail is the largest commercial real estate company in Europe. "Shares of such companies have been hit hard and store closures are accelerating, pressuring landlords to fill empty space and reinvent shopping centers", Pooja Thakur Mahrotri and Matthew Burgess write for Bloomberg.

Westfield Chairman Sir Frank Lowy, who co-founded the company in the 1950s, will retire as Chairman following the sale.

Lowy said: "The transaction announced today is the culmination of the strategic journey Westfield has been on since its 2014 restructure. Steven Lowy serves on Scentre's board", he continues. "They're already 50 percent through that online retail switch", Morningstar analyst Tony Sherlock said of the deal.

Westfield's portfolio includes shopping areas at USA airports such as Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International, Los Angeles International and Orlando International.

He was knighted last week in a ceremony at Windsor Castle in recognition of his contribution to the British economy.

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