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Blackstone snaps up Top Ryde

21 Nov 2012 SYDNEY MORNING HERALD - CAROLYN CUMMINS COMMERCIAL PROPERTY EDITOR



THE $341 million sale of the Top Ryde shopping centre to the US Blackstone group will be the trigger for another round of retail redevelopments as landlords try to entice shoppers away from the internet.

The competitive price is also expected to draw other buyers into the retail mall sector, which continues to generate income from food courts and entertainment despite the weaker sales from fashion tenants.

Lend Lease, AMP Capital, Stockland and Westfield, among others, all have multimillion projects and potential sales of assets in the pipeline across the county.

The malls will be the standard bearers for shopping habits in the coming decade.

The next wave of regional centres to be sold are expected to come from Centro Retail Australia as it continues to unwind its syndicate business.

The head of retail investments at Jones Lang LaSalle, Simon Rooney, who advised on the Top Ryde sale, said total transactions in the regional shopping centre sector this year were close to $3.3 billion.

"This level of investment activity is materially up on last year, when $716 million transacted, and represents one of the highest levels of activity in Australia's history," he said. "Of this year-to-date activity, Top Ryde City is the only 100 per cent interest to transact, with the rest being partial interests.

"A key trend driving this activity in the regional sector, has been Australian real estate investment trusts [A-REITs] 'recycling capital' by selling down partial interests in core regional assets, while retaining management rights."

Mr Rooney said this released capital and enabled these groups to move forward with expansions and refurbishments. "Most notably, this strategy was successfully executed by Centro Retail Australia transacting three half shares in Galleria, The Glen and Colonnades for $690.4 million in May this year.".

The entrance of Blackstone through its purchase of Top Ryde from the receivers and managers, McGrath Nichol, will also mean increased competition in the northern suburbs.

Top Ryde was originally developed by John Beville and cost about $800 million, which included new floors of upmarket retailers and attached apartments. It was officially opened in 2010 but receivers were appointed a year later.

Nearby, AMP Capital has also launched its $390 million upgrade of the Macquarie Centre at Macquarie Park.

According to the managing director of AMP Capital Shopping Centre, Bryan Hynes, the project will include a new David Jones store that will be a blueprint design for the department store's future layout. It will be smaller and cater for more internet shopping by having areas to collect goods bought through the DJs website.