Westfield Group appears ready to make some big acquisitions, now that it has secured a $4 billion global syndicated line of credit from 34 banks. The Australian-based developer wouldn't comment on plans for the money, other than to say it will be used for development and redevelopment.
At this point, Westfield may be shifting its attention from the U.S., where it owns 66 properties, to Europe, where American competitors such as Simon Property Group and Mills Corp. have been active buyers. Westfield has been promoting itself as a global company since it combined its international operations into one group last year.
According to industry insiders, Westfield may bid for Lend Lease's $1.2 billion Bluewater Mall outside London, in Kent. Australia's Lend Lease Group has been divesting its real estate portfolio globally for several years and Westfield has tried to acquire Bluewater before. The difference now is that Westfield owns a 6.5 percent stake in Lend Lease, which it can try to use to push through a deal. Lend Lease also owns a 50 percent stake in the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania -- the second-largest U.S. mall, which could be another target for Westfield.
Westfield has already been expanding in the U.K. In October it bought London-based shopping center group Duelguide for $1 billion. Westfield now has nine properties in Britain and four development sites. Overall, its U.K. portfolio is worth $4 billion.
Within the U.S., Westfield was a bidder on the Wilmorite portfolio that Macerich acquired in late December for $2.3 billion. There's no comparable company available for sale now. One long shot, according to Smith Barney analyst Simon Scott, is that Westfield could try for a share of the Sears property portfolio through a joint bid with Vornado Realty Trust.
Westfield is still active in its home base of Australia, where it is attempting to acquire General Property Trust, but its real thrust is international. By combining its various trusts into one large unit with a market cap of $18 billion last year, it positioned itself as a global entity, rather than a confederation. The latest financing underscores the international nature of the firm., too; 34 banks from all over the world have put money into the syndication. The pieces range from $25 million up to $225 million. The $4 billion facility comes just months after a $2.5 billion bond was issued in October to help refinance its U.S. debt.