Westfield sales in the US hint at more to come

Westfield could raise up to $9 billion in the medium term through the selldown of its direct interests in assets.

Westfield could raise up to $9 billion in the medium term through the selldown of its direct interests in assets.

Analysts said the group's move to reduce its stake in six assets in Florida this week to the O'Connor Capital group was the trigger to do the same in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Britain.

This would release funds for its $12 billion property development pipeline (its direct interest is about $4 billion), a share buyback program and expansion of new online technology.

David Lloyd, a real estate analyst at the Commonwealth Bank, said he believed Westfield ultimately wanted to own a direct exposure in each asset to entrench itself as the manager.

"We view this transaction as another positive step in Westfield's evolution to a more capital-light, higher return on equity real estate investment trust," he said. "Furthermore, we expect similar-style transactions to materialise throughout calendar 2013.

"Based on this principle, we estimate Westfield has the potential to sell down a further $8.6 billion in assets across its established geographies. Following the O'Connor joint venture, Westfield's US exposure is heavily skewed to California (51 per cent, or $US6.3 billion).

"Importantly, Westfield has yet to divest interests in the majority of its Californian portfolio, which in our view holds some of its best assets in the US and would be greatly attractive to pension and sovereign wealth funds."

The suggested selldown of its direct interests has also triggered another round of speculation that Westfield may look to sell the office assets at 85 Castlereagh Street.

Co-chief executive Peter Lowy has said in the past the office assets were an integral part of the portfolio, but analysts said with high demand for quality office assets in Sydney, the temptation to sell at a high price may be increasing.

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