Westfield Corp., operator of upscale shopping malls in Los Angeles and dozens of other locations in the US and Britain, is being sold to French commercial real estate giant Unibail-Rodamco in a $16-billion deal, the two companies announced Tuesday.
The combined company, which will use the Westfield name, will own 104 assets attracting 1.2 billion visits annually, "creating a must-have partner for all global retailers and brands across Europe and select markets in the United States", the companies said in a joint statement. Other Southern California locations include the Valencia Town Center mall in Santa Clarita, Westfield Mission Valley, and Horton Plaza and UTC malls in San Diego.
Christophe Cuvillier will be the group CEO and Colin Dyer will be the group chairman of the supervisory board.
Slightly more than half of those centers are characterized as "flagship shopping destinations".
Westfield chairman, Sir Frank Lowy AC commented, "This transaction is the culmination of the strategic journey Westfield has been on since its 2014 restructure". The shares were halted earlier on Tuesday pending the announcement, having last traded at A$8.50.
Shares in Unibail-Rodamco, which was formed in 2007 by the merger of France's Unibail and Dutch-based Rodamco, were down 4.0 percent at 1500 GMT, with analysts at Kepler Cheuvreux saying that the deal looked expensive.
Image Hammerson's shopping centres include Birmingham's Bullring
He added: "Shopping-mall owners are facing huge challenges to boost footfall and sales".
Once dominant United States department store operators such as Macy's Inc (M.N) and J C Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) have announced plans to shut hundreds of stores in recent years, putting pressure on landlords to find new "anchor tenants" or come up with new ways to grow returns.
Westfield separated its operation in Australia and New Zealand from that in the USA and Europe in 2014.
Unibail is the largest commercial real estate company in Europe.
Commenting on the transaction, Cuvillier said, "All of us at Unibail-Rodamco have vast respect for what the Lowy family and the Westfield team have accomplished with the Westfield brand and the company's iconic collection of world class shopping destinations".
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