Westfield puts two Auckland malls on the market

By Anne Gibson

Westfield is selling two large Auckland malls for more than $300 million as it concentrates on newer development opportunities nearby.

Justin Lynch, Westfield's deputy director, said the Pakuranga and Glenfield shopping centres were for sale.

"It's our normal business practice to review our properties for opportunities to generate higher returns for shareholders," Lynch said.

But Westfield has rarely sold in New Zealand. After taking over St Lukes Group last decade, it embarked on a plan to spend $1 billion in 10 years, vastly increasing its power and presence here.

Westfield has spent about $200 million expanding the two malls in the past decade.

Competitors said yesterday Westfield was selling to quit small malls with no further development potential.

The new Albany mall it was building would threaten Glenfield's primary and secondary retail catchments, one said.

Westfield also said this week it would spend $70 million expanding Manukau, adding a new SkyCity cinema complex, 35 new shops and more parking and the competitor said it was now even more obvious why Pakuranga was on the block.

"Westfield would be shooting themselves in the foot if they kept Pakuranga, because Manukau will eat into its catchment."

Westfield is the world's largest mall owner, with 121 centres worth $67.8 billion in Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Lynch said yesterday that the firm had already spent $700 million here and would spend a further $600 million in the next five years.

Westfield had conducted a secretive marketing campaign for the two malls, forcing prospective bidders to sign gagging agreements.

One prospective bidder said he was able to look closely at the malls only after signing a confidentiality agreement drawn up by Westfield's lawyers Russell McVeagh.

Colliers International's top agent John Goddard is handling the deals and large Australian and European institutional or superannuation investors may bid. Wholesale AMP funds, Australia's Centro Properties or German investment funds are also said to be interested.

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