Business

Westfield agrees to $32.8 billion takeover by European giant Unibail-Rodamco

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Westfield Corporation has agreed to a takeover offer from European giant Unibail-Rodamco in a deal worth $32.8 billion.

Westfield Corporation has agreed to a takeover by European property company Unibail-Rodamco in a deal that values the shopping centre giant at $32.8 billion (US$24.7 billion).

Founded in Sydney in 1953 by Sir Frank Lowy and John Saunders, Westfield currently has interests in 35 shopping centres in the US and the UK, while its Australian centres are managed by the separately listed Scentre Group.

Earlier, shares in Westfield Corporation were placed in a trading halt.

The shopping giant had requested its shares be placed in a halt with immediate effect until December 14 or when an announcement was released to the market.

Westfield shares last traded on Monday at $8.55.

A statement from Unibail-Rodamco and the Westfield Corporation said security holders would get a combination of cash and shares in Unibail-Rodamco to the value of $10.01 ($US7.55) of each Westfield security, a premium of 17.8 per cent to the value of Westfield securities at the end of Monday’s trading session.

Unibail-Rodamco chief executive officer Christophe Cuvillier said that "all of us have immense 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".

"The acquisition of Westfield is a natural extension of Unibail-Rodamco's strategy of concentration, differentiation and innovation. It adds a number of new attractive retail markets in London and the wealthiest catchment areas in the United States," Mr Cuvillier declared.

"We believe that this transaction represents a compelling opportunity for both companies to realise benefits not available to each company on a standalone basis, and creates a strong and attractive platform for future growth."

Westfield chairman Sir Frank told reporters the takeover was a culmination of the strategic direction Westfield had taken since it restructured three years ago and separated its Australian and New Zealand assets from those in the UK and US.

“This is obviously a day of mixed emotion for me, but I am 100 per cent comfortable with my decision,” he said.

“We will move from being executives to being investors. We are committed to the success of the new company and we intend to maintain a substantial investment.

“We started small and we took Westfield to the world. This wonderful country has made possible everything I have achieved. I will remain a grateful and proud Australian always.

“For the assets I have spent my life building, I could not imagine a better home for them than in this new company.

The 87-year-old recalled Westfield’s early days when it was a “humble little shopping centre in Blacktown”, which is still standing today.

“When I look back on 57 years, it is more than a lifetime’s work that I have put into this company,” he said.

“It is still bittersweet for me but it is time, from a personal point of view, to move on.”

His sons Steven and Peter Lowy are co-chief executives and will retain leadership roles.

The takeover is expected to be completed by mid-2018, pending regulatory and shareholder approval.

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