Westfield Raises $700 Million From Sale of U.S. Mall Stakes

Westfield Group, the world’s biggest shopping center operator by assets, said it sold half shares in six malls in Florida to O’Connor Capital Partners for about $700 million.

Westfield agreed to sell a 49.9 percent interest in the malls at book value, valuing the joint venture with the New York based real estate investment and development company at about $1.3 billion, the Sydney-based company said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange. Westfield will continue to manage, develop and lease the properties, it said.

The shares rose 1.7 percent to A$10.94 at the close of trading in Sydney, the most since Jan. 9, extending gains this year to 3.6 percent. That compared with a 0.5 percent increase in the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index today and a 7.3 percent advance this year.

Westfield has been selling stakes in malls around the world and entering into joint ventures to invest in higher return activities such as developments. The company has partnered with groups including London-based Hammerson Plc, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Starwood Capital Group LLC and Westfield Retail Trust on projects in the U.K., U.S. and Australia.

“This agreement carries on the group’s strategy of introducing joint venture partners into our assets globally as well as disposing of non-core assets,” Westfield co-Chief Executive Officer Peter Lowy, said in the statement.

The transaction will dilute Westfield’s 2013 funds from operations by about 1 cent per security, it said. The dilution will be offset when the company reinvests the capital raised, it said. The sale is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter, it said.

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