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French property giant to buy Westfield mall operator

French property giant Unibail-Rodamco announced on Tuesday it will buy Australia's Westfield shopping mall operator. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

French property giant Unibail-Rodamco announced on Tuesday it will acquire Australia’s Westfield shopping mall operator in a deal worth US$24.7 billion (21 billion euros) to create “a global property leader”, the two groups said in a statement.

The agreement would “create the world's premier developer and operator of flagship shopping destinations”, the statement added.

Tuesday’s announcement comes as mall operators embark on a consolidation drive as they face increasingly tough competition from online shopping sites such as Amazon, which this month launched in Australia.

Westfield’s share price is down about 10 per cent in 2017.

“The acquisition of Westfield is a natural extension of Unibail-Rodamco’s strategy of concentration, differentiation and innovation,” said Christophe Cuvillier, chief executive officer of Unibail-Rodamco.

“It adds a number of new attractive retail markets in London and the wealthiest catchment areas in the United States.

“We believe that this transaction represents a compelling opportunity for both companies to realise benefits not available to each company on a standalone basis, and creates a strong and attractive platform for future growth.”

The statement said the proposal had been “unanimously recommended by Westfield’s board of directors and Unibail-Rodamco’s supervisory board”.

Unibail-Rodamco is Europe's largest commercial landlord and the purchase comes as it offloads smaller assets in Europe to focus on bigger shopping centres, which are likely to be better suited to fending off the march of e-commerce giants.

Westfield started out with one shopping centre in Sydney’s suburbs and now has interests in dozens of shopping malls and airport retail spaces in the United States, Britain and Europe.

- with AFP