Westfield Nabs Interest in U.K. Retail Owner

Less than a week after Simon Property Group acquired a 3.14 percent stake in U.K. retail property firm Liberty International, Australia-based Westfield Group has stepped up to take a 2.96 percent interest in Liberty. Liberty International is a market leader in the United Kingdom in regard to regional shopping centers and is the owner the Covent Garden Estate in Central London (pictured). Recently, a Liberty subsidiary, Capital & Counties, announced that it had completed a 50/50 joint venture with Land Securities of its holding in Empress State, Earls Court, London, a 470,000-square-foot building leased to the London Metropolitan Police. Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group. is an S&P 500 company and the largest public U.S. real estate company. It currently owns or has an interest in 383 properties comprising 261 million square feet of gross leasable area in North America, Europe and Asia. On July 15, Simon expanded its international presence with the announcement that its Chelsea outlet division opened the fourth phase of Sano Premium Outlets, near Tokyo, Japan. The 73,000-square-foot expansion brings the property to a total of 393,000 square feet of gross leasable area containing 175 retail and restaurant tenants. In June, the company started construction of a 400,000-square-foot outlet shopping center in Cincinnati. The project is slated for opening in summer 2009. Liberty International is a major UK FTSE 100 listed property company, with shareholders’ funds of £4.7 billion and property investments of £8.6 billion, of which U.K. regional shopping centers comprise 75 percent. Assets of the group under control or joint control amount to £11 billion. Liberty International converted into a UK Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) on Jan. 1, 2007. Australian-based Westfield is the largest retail property group in the world by equity market capitalization and one of the largest entities listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. Westfield has interests in an investment portfolio of 118 shopping centers in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, valued in excess of A$63.2 billion.