Oui ....Westfield yields to Parisian takeover

Oui ....Westfield yields to Parisian takeover
Oui ....Westfield yields to Parisian takeover

Westfield Corporation is set to be taken over by the European shopping centre giant, Unibail-Rodamco.

A global property giant with 104 malls in 27 markets around the world will emerge after a takeover deal worth $32.7 billion.

Estates Gazette noted Rothschild’s property team, led by Alex Midgen, advised Westfield as well as Intu and Deutsche Bank’s property team, led in Europe by Rishi Bhuchar & Klaus Elmendorff advised Unibail as well Hammerson.

Unibail shares traded lower in overnight European trade.

Frank Lowy, Westfield’s chairman, and his sons Steven and Peter, who are the current co-chief executives, will vote in favour of the deal, which values each Westfield security at an 18 per cent premium to the value of Westfield securities at the end of Monday’s trading session.

Peter Lowy calculated that since 1960 $1000 invested in Westfield would be worth $440 million.

The Lowy family said it intends to maintain an investment in the combined International Group which is headquartered in Paris. As part of its takeover, shareholders will receive a combination of cash and shares in Unibal-Rodamco.

Frank Lowy said it was a day of mixed emotion but that he was certain it’s the right decision.... he foresaw a bright future.

Westfield chairman Sir Frank Lowy said the deal was “the culmination of the strategic journey Westfield has been on since its 2014 restructure”.

“We see this transaction as highly compelling for Westfield’s security holders and Unibail-Rodamco’s shareholders alike,” Sir Frank said.

He also suggested the family wanted to change their role to investors ... "we’ve [Frank & sons] been doing it for a combined 145yrs.”

Shares in Westfield Corporation, the owner of shopping centres in the US and UK, were placed in a trading halt earlier today pending the announcement of a potentially “significant” corporate transaction.

Westfield shares had last traded on Monday at $8.55. 

Frank Lowy will retire as chairman of Westfield, but will chair an advisory board for the new merged company, while his sons Peter and Steven will retain leadership roles.

Founded in Sydney in 1953 by 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 which remains independent.
 
Scentre rose 17¢, or 4.1 per cent, to $4.35 while other local property trusts including its rival Vicinity Centres picked up. Vicinity rose 2.5 per cent, or 7¢, to close at $2.87 on Tuesday.
 
It started in humble Blacktown.
 
Last month at a film crew's behest, Frank Lowy went back to Blacktown where the delicatessen was opened in 1955, followed by the first Westfield mall in 1959.

His biographer Jill Margo, writing in the AFR, noted when he was walking down the street two older women called out "Hey Frankie!".

"They recognised me!" he said. "They'd been customers in the deli 60 years ago and had such fond memories. We reflected on those memories and the fact that they still live with the pleasure of being acquainted with me was a great thrill. What more could I want."

Margo added that Frank was always adamant that there would be no Lowy dynasty.

He and his wife, Shirley, have 11 grandchildren and, so far, four great grandchildren.

"While thrilled to work with his sons, David, Peter and Steven, he never believed in trying to coax any grandchildren into the business," Margo advised, adding the older ones now work in the investment arena, the theatre, the internet, medical clinics, not for profits, and small enterprises – all unrelated to malls.

And his sons collectively, had worked alongside their father for more than 90 years "and it's time," Margo concluded.

It has been suggested the red Westfield brand will prevail, at least in English speaking world. 
 
Unibail-Rodamco's chief executive,Christophe Cuvillier a French retail veteran, spent three years in Sydney in the 1990s as head of L'Oreal's Australian luxury products division.
 
The news comes just a week after property company, Hammerson, announced it had made a bid to take over rival firm, Intu.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of our authors. Jonathan has been writing about property since the early 1980s and is editor-at-large of Property Observer.

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