Australia’s Westfield Group has sold seven of its US-based shopping centres to the Starwood Capital Group for a consideration of USD$1.64 billion ($1.75 billion).
The sale will see Starwood acquire Westfield's Belden Village mall in Canton, Ohio; Capital mall in Olympia, Washington; Franklin Park in Toledo, Ohio; Great Northern mall in North Olmsted, Ohio; Parkway in El Cajon, California; Southlake in Merrillville, Indiana and West Covina in California.
Under the deal Starwood, a private real estate investment company, will obtain a majority equity stake in the slew of shopping malls and becomes responsible for their management and operation, while Westfield will continue to retain 10 per cent ownership.
The deal follows Westfield's sale of majority ownership in eight of its shopping malls in the United States for USD$1.15 billion last year, seven of which went to Starwood for book value, as well as the sale of half stakes in six Florida shopping malls in March for USD$1.3 billion to O'Connor Capital Partneres.
Westfield has recently sought move away from inessential operations and offload its lower-end US shopping centres, with the malls sold to Starwood last year primarily situated in less affluent areas with limited potential for growth.
Peter Lowy, Westfield's joint managing director, said in a statement that the Starwood deal would serve to further the group's overall strategic objectives.
"We are focused on redeploying our capital into superior retail destinations in major cities through divesting non-core assets and introducing joint venture partners into our high quality portfolio of assets."
Following the conclusion of the deal, which are expected to be finalized in the fourth quarter of this year, Westfield will still own and operate 40 a total of shopping malls in the United States, with an average annual specialty sales spend of $513 per square foot at June, compared to $494 psf as reported in the group's half year results.
While Westfield Group's first half net profits declined by over 36 per cent, the Group said this was the result of the sale of less-profitable shopping malls weighing down on overall revenue. Operating earnings, which the company says are a more reliable indicator of its performance, gained 3 per cent to hit $729 million, while operating earnings in the US leaped by 4.3 per cent on the back of the country's economic recovery.