Friday, 22 June, 2018

Unibail-Rodamco agrees to buy mall operator Westfield for US$15.7 billion

European retail giant to take over Westfield for $15.7B Unibail-Rodamco agrees to buy mall operator Westfield for US$15.7 billion
Nicole Thomas | 12 December, 2017, 20:00

The companies said the deal will create a "global property leader" with assets worth more than $72 billion.

Wannabe buyer, Paris-based Unibail-Rodamco, is Europe's biggest listed property company, and the Australian Financial Review said the potential deal would be Australia's largest ever takeover.

Under its Australian billionaire chairman and co-founder Frank Lowy, Westfield has pioneered USA mall redevelopment, introducing upscale food courts, high-end restaurants, bars, cinemas and boutique fashion outlets to entice shoppers. Unibail-Rodamco shares have fallen 1.2 percent. The offer is worth nearly 18% more than Westfield's closing share price on Monday, the companies said Tuesday.

"As Peter said earlier, we have worked at Westfield for a combined 145 years", he said.

The deal values Westfield at $10.01 a share - a 17.8 per cent premium to its last closing price - and will hand shareholders both cash and shares in Unibail-Rodamco. The offer has been unanimously recommended by the board of Westfield, the biggest private sector mall landlord in London and the 12th largest US retail property owner.

The transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018.

Unibail is focused on large sites with heavy footfall and high-profile tenants such as Apple, Zara and Primark and analysts said it would gain from importing the Westfield model.

Dozens of malls in the US are changing hands as part of a mega real estate takeover.

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Westfield's US malls include one in New York's World Trade Center.

Westfield has some of the best shopping centres in the world. "They will become a dominant player, have the best relationships with retailers and therefore be best placed to create the malls of the future".

As mall owners around the world seek a defense against Amazon.com Inc, Europe's largest commercial landlord is betting the solution lies across the Atlantic.

The billionaire's family will maintain a substantial investment in the group following the merger and serve on various boards. Westfield shares had been down 9 percent this year prior to the deal being made public, and the company has spent years lowering its retail exposure.

Shares of Simon Property Group Inc, the biggest U.S. mall owner, have fallen 8.7 percent this year.

"For Westfield chairman Frank Lowy, the deal represents the culmination of a decades-long career in shopping malls that began when he opened a deli in a western Sydney suburb".

Hammerson Plc this month agreed to buy its smaller competitor, Intu Properties Plc, in a deal that values the latter at about 3.4 billion pounds ($4.6 billion).

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