SYDNEY — The Westfield Group is restructuring its $66 billion retail empire.
Shareholders in Westfield Retail Trust, Australia's largest listed retail property trust, voted Friday to merge with the Australasian business of the connected but separately-listed Westfield Group. The merger will pave the way for the creation of two new independent companies that will manage the group's portfolio of 87 shopping centers in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and U.K., worth 70 billion Australian dollars, or $66 billion at current exchange.
Scentre Group will own and operate Westfield Group's 47 shopping centers in Australia and New Zealand. Westfield Corporation will manage the group's international business.
Westfield Group chairman Frank Lowy will chair both Westfield Corporation and Scentre Group. Lowy's sons Peter and Steven Lowy, currently Westfield Group's co-chief executive officers, will become co-chief executive officers of Westfield Corporation. Westfield Group chief financial officer Peter Allen will become the ceo of Scentre Group.
Subject to regulatory approvals, the last day of trading in Westfield Group securities will be June 24. Scentre Group securities will commence trading on a deferred basis on June 25.
Friday's vote, which passed with a margin of 76 percent, with brings to a close over a month of wrangling between shareholders and the boards of Westfield Group and Westfield Retail Trust.
The original vote on the deal was abandoned last month after UniSuper, Westfield Retail Trust's biggest shareholder with an 8.5 percent stake, led a shareholders' revolt. UniSuper chief executive officer John Pearce had said he believed the proposal was too risky.
In a statement released Friday to the Australian Securities Exchange, Frank Lowy said: "Achieving a 75 percent 'yes' vote was a high hurdle but we were always confident of the intrinsic merit and fairness of the proposal to both entities and we now look forward to the creation of what will be two new, great companies."
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