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Westfield's Brazilian bet

WESTFIELD Group has shown there is still money in bricks-and-mortar retailing by investing in Brazil, the seventh-largest economy in the world.

WESTFIELD Group has shown there is still money in bricks-and-mortar retailing by investing in Brazil, the seventh-largest economy in the world.

Westfield's joint managing director, Steven Lowy, said yesterday it was a "historic" day for the group.

"We cannot control markets or trading conditions, but we can put product on the ground that has longevity," he said.

It will be only the fifth new market the retail group has entered since its founding 51 years ago. Westfield moved into Britain in 2000 and next month it opens the second-largest centre in Europe at Stratford, the site of the London 2012 Olympic village.

For the relatively small sum of $440 million, the group has bought a 50 per cent stake in the private Almeida Junior Shopping Centre, which has five centres across southern Brazil, including two being built.

As part of the deal, $250 million will be used to retire the Brazilian group's debt, with the remainder going to redevelopment and expansion.

It will be funded internally by Westfield.

Simon Wheatley, Goldman Sachs's executive director for real estate investment research, said the deal was a better new-market shift than an entry into Asia or Europe.

"The earnings and valuation impact is negligible, but it does offer Westfield a near-term path of growth against the maturity of Australia and UK operations and the weak development outlook prevailing in the US," he said.

Westfield, which went ex-dividend yesterday, shed 6?, or 7.1 per cent, to close at $7.73.

Diversified property group Stockland says its focus on the retail, residential and retirement sectors will stand it in good stead to return stable earnings in the coming year.

In the past year, earnings per security were up 8.6 per cent, with the group saying it expected this level to be maintained, subject to economic factors.

In the year to June 30, the group reported a statutory profit of $754.6 million, up 57.7 per cent on the same time last year.

But after adjusting for property revaluations and asset sales, the net profit, which market analysts refer to, was $752.4 million, up 8.7 per cent, in line with expectations.

Distribution was also up 8.6 per cent to 23.7? and will be paid on August 31.


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