UniSuper lifts stake in Westfield Retail Trust

Despite criticising the terms of Westfield's restructure, the superannuation giant has added to its stake in Westfield Retail Trust.

UniSuper, which has criticised the terms of Westfield’s planned $70 billion restructure, has lifted its stake in the Australian-focused arm of the Lowy family’s shopping centre empire, Westfield Retail Trust.

The superannuation giant, which was already the largest shareholder in WRT, yesterday revealed it had ploughed $109 million into the stock to increase its stake to 8.49 per cent on March 28, worth about $761m, based on the stock’s closing price of $3.01 on Monday.

UniSuper previously held 7.27 per cent of WRT. The move to boost its stake comes amid growing investor discontent over key terms in the proposal, including the $1.8bn price tag Westfield Group has put on its Australian management platform.

The restructure will see Wesfield merge its own portfolio of stakes in 47 Australian and New Zealand shopping centres with those of its Australia-focused trust WRT to create a new entity known as Scentre.

The newly created WestfieldCorporation will own centres in the US and Britain and a development pipeline in Europe, Britain and the US.

“I can confirm that UniSuper remains opposed to the transaction,” UniSuper head of property and private markets Kent Robbins said yesterday.

He said the fund had upped its stake based on the “relative value” of WRT’s shares, rebuffing suggestions it was looking to increase its influence at the shareholder vote on the transaction in May.

“Those WRT shares versus a myriad of other investments, both property and non-property, struck a chord with us in terms of having relative value,” he said. UniSuper is thought to have concerns over the price of the deal. It is also believed to be concerned about the gearing of Scentre, which will be 38.5 per cent compared with WRT’s current gearing of 21.5 per cent.

Last month, The Australian revealed 58 per cent of WRT investors who participated in a survey conducted by brokerage CLSA opposed the deal.

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