Institutional investors are speculating about a $1 billion float of a half stake in Westfield's New Zealand shopping mall assets.

Shane Solly, of Harbour Asset Management in Auckland, said the market could be keen for such an initial public offering, after the prospect was floated in Australia by media.

"We would consider an investment in the New Zealand assets on the same basis as any other new issue," Solly said yesterday.

Another fund manager agreed.


"Looks like this could be an option. We would obviously welcome a listing of Westfield's NZ assets which would give us our first retail-focused real estate investment trust for a while," he said.

A listing of 50 per cent of the nine New Zealand malls would have a market capitalisation of around $1 billion and Westfield might keep the other 50 per cent stake.

The finance experts were reacting to an article in the Australian, published yesterday.

"Westfield's relaunched Australasian shopping centre landlord Scentre Group is in talks to sell half its A$2.6 billion [$2.9 billion] New Zealand portfolio, either through a float on the New Zealand stock exchange or to global pension funds," the Australian said.

"The A$18 billion company has been in talks with the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore and Canadian pension fund PSP, interested in buying 50 per cent stakes in the nine Westfield centres in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch."

Investment bank UBS was understood to be working on plans for an initial public offering of half of the centres on the NZX, and JP Morgan could also be in the frame, the article said.

"The mooted plan remains consistent with Westfield's global strategy to sell down stakes in its properties, but retain management rights, and comes as conditions remain buoyant for IPOs," it said.

"The proposed New Zealand company could be worth about NZ$1 billion ... A dual listing on the Australian Securities Exchange could also be under consideration."

A spokesperson for Scentre Group said a strategic focus of the group was to maximise income and capital growth through the intensive management of its portfolio.