Westfield, the big Australian shopping centre-owner, has recommended shareholders accept a takeover offer from a European company for $32.8 billion (US$24.7 billion) – a move that will take one of the country’s most successful business stories out of Australian hands.
Wannabe buyer, Paris-based Unibail-Rodamco, is Europe’s biggest listed property company, and the Australian Financial Review said the potential deal would be Australia’s largest ever takeover.
If Westfield, which Australian-Israeli businessman Sir Frank Lowy founded in 1960, is taken over, the company will give up its main listing on the Australian Securities Exchange, to become part of Unibail-Rodamco, which is listed in Amsterdam and Paris.
The Australian reported that Sir Frank, who’s already Australia’s fourth-richest person, holds a 9.5 per cent stake in Westfield, of which he remains chairman. He has recommended that shareholders accept the offer.
The deal – worth 0.01844 Unibail-Rodamco stapled securities plus US$2.67 in cash for each share – values his stake at almost $1.7 billion at Westfield’s Monday closing price of $8.50 per share.
The Australian malls Lowy created aren’t part of the deal, because they were spun off into a separate, listed company called Scentre in 2014.
In a statement released announcing the deal, 87-year-old Sir Frank said Unibail-Rodamco was a “natural home for the legacy of Wstfield’s brand and business”. Lowy’s sons Steven and Peter are the co-CEOs of Westfield.
Christophe Cuvillier, Unibail-Rodamco’s CEO, said he had immense respect for the Lowy family and the Westfield team and would use the combined strength of the two companies to create more “superior quality shopping destinations”.