GPT poised for shopping spree on $397m mall sale

GPT Group will use the $397 million raised from the sale of its half share in Erina Fair shopping centre on the NSW Central Coast to expand its office and industrial/business park investments.

GPT Group will use the $397 million raised from the sale of its half share in Erina Fair shopping centre on the NSW Central Coast to expand its office and industrial/business park investments.

GPT's chief executive, Michael Cameron, said the interest in the centre was sold to the National Pension Service of Korea at a 1 per cent premium.

The Lend Lease-managed unlisted Australian Prime Property Fund Retail owns the remaining 50 per cent of the centre.

GPT has been steadily reducing its minority interests in retail assets and instead boosting its bigger malls, such as Highpoint in Melbourne, through high-end redevelopments.

Analysts said the deal was positive for both GPT and Australian Prime Property Fund, which is also the centre's manager.

Erina Fair, which is the biggest centre on the Central Coast, was sold through Simon Rooney, the head of retail investments in Australasia for Jones Lang LaSalle.

He said the deal reflected the liquid capital markets in Australia backed by swelling demand from wholesale and superannuation investors.

Mr Rooney said offshore pension and sovereign wealth funds were looking to increase their exposure to direct real estate in Australia.

"Since the start of 2011, these investors have acquired $5.7 billion worth of ... major retail assets at or above book value," Mr Rooney said.

"The A-REITs have been the primary driver on the sell side, as they implement the strategy of selling down part shares in major assets while retaining management and development control, in order to redeploy capital into their development pipelines and subsequently drive the return on their equity invested."

Other sales include one by Coles of a 75 per cent interest in an initial portfolio of 19 shopping centres across Australia to the Industry Superannuation Property Trust for $532 million. Coles will retain a 25 per cent interest to keep the management rights but the deal will deliver proceeds to parent company Wesfarmers of about $400 million.

Federation Centres recently sold more than $308 million worth of assets from the former Centro syndicates with the funds redirected into the existing portfolio.

Mr Cameron said GPT had capitalised on the strong interest from domestic and overseas investors in quality property assets.

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