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Is Westfield About to Buy a Competitor?

Talk out of Australia is that Westfield Group is in talks to acquire fellow Australian firm Liberty International and, in the process, become the largest owner of shopping centers in the world.

Though the anonymous source in The Independent did not name the interested party, it said it was most likely to be the Westfield Group, an Australian shopping mall company that has had a longstanding interest in Liberty International.

"This is a story I have heard once or twice for many years," said JPMorgan analyst Harm Meijer. If the deal did go ahead in the current credit environment, Meijer said he would expect an all-share deal, rather than a cash offer.

A deal would probably result in limited cost synergies, since the business of running shopping malls is not capital intensive, requiring little more than maintenance costs. But it would give Liberty International, the owner of London's famed Covent Garden Estate and $17 billion worth of property in Britain, access to Westfield's extensive international portfolio, including property in China and India.

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