Westfield Said to Be in Talks to Sell 7 Malls to Starwood

Westfield Group is in talks to sell majority stakes in seven of its U.S. shopping centers for about $1 billion to Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Capital Group LLC, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions, who asked not to be identified as the matter is private.

Five of the malls are among the 17 centers Westfield has been seeking to dispose of since last year, according to the Wall Street Journal, which earlier reported the sale talks without naming a source. Sydney-based Westfield will retain a minority holding in the malls that Greenwich, Connecticut-based Starwood acquires, the newspaper said.

Julia Clarke, Sydney-based spokeswoman for Westfield, declined to comment. Tom Johnson, an external spokesman for Starwood Capital in New York, declined to comment on the report.

Westfield, which spun off ownership of half its Australian and New Zealand malls in November 2010, is freeing up capital to invest in higher-return activities such as development projects in Italy and New York’s World Trade Center. In February, it announced a joint venture with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which will pay $1.8 billion for a 45 percent share of 10 U.S. malls and two redevelopment sites.

Westfield today said it expects funds from operations in the 2012 fiscal year to be 68 cents a share, excluding the impact of the U.S. joint venture and the sales of its interests in three U.K. shopping centers. It will increase its dividend to 49.5 Australian cents for the year, from 48.4 cents in 2011, it said in its annual report.

Westfield shares rose 0.3 percent to A$8.86 as of the 4:10 p.m. close of trading in Sydney.

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