Westfield bought by Unibail Rodamco in £18.5bn deal

Dianna Christensen
December 13, 2017

Unibail, based in Paris, operates malls in Western and Central Europe.

Mall operators have been involved in a wave of mergers and acquisitions globally as the rise of e-commerce has squeezed traditional retailers.

The cash-and-stock deal values each share of Westfield at $7.55, an 18 percent premium over Monday's closing price.

Shares of such companies have been hit hard and store closures are accelerating, pressuring landlords to fill empty space and reinvent shopping centers.

The deal combines two of the biggest mall operators in the world at a time when malls are going through many well-publicized struggles, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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.

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

Westfield's Frank Lowy added: "The transaction announced today is the culmination of the strategic journey Westfield has been on since its 2014 restructure".

Westfield Group spun off its Australian and New Zealand operations in 2013 and reorganized its Northern Hemisphere properties as Westfield Corp.in 2014. Steven Lowy serves on Scentre's board.

A new advisory board will be chaired by Sir Frank Lowy, providing independent advice to the new company.

Westfield's portfolio includes shopping areas at United States airports such as Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International, Los Angeles International and Orlando International. "I never felt so unjustly criticized as I felt then".

"Sir Frank hit the phones, rallied investors' support and a few weeks later won approval for the demerger, creating an worldwide group, Westfield Corporation, and a local operation, Scentre. They're already 50 percent through that online retail switch", Morningstar analyst Tony Sherlock said of the deal. "He is a companion of the Order of Australia", according to the Australian Associated Press.

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

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