Westfield Corporation has agreed to a $US24.7 billion ($A32.7 billion) takeover from a Paris property giant that will end the Lowy family’s control of the shopping centre giant but also spread the Westfield brand across Europe.
Unibail-Rodamco is the largest commercial landlord in Europe, with interests in shopping centres, offices and exhibition centres.
It will pay a combination of cash and shares for control of Westfield, at a value representing a premium of 17.8 per cent on the most recent trading value of Westfield securities.
Westfield was established in Sydney’s west and listed in 1960, before growing rapidly under the control of Frank Lowy, who was chief executive for 50 years before handing over to his sons Steven and Peter in 2011.
The Lowy family will vote in favour of the deal, and the Westfield board has recommended other shareholders do the same when a meeting is held in the first half of 2018.
The deal values the Lowy family’s stake in Westfield at just over $A3 billion.
“For the assets I have spent my life building I could not imagine a better home for them than in this new company,” Frank Lowy said.
“Today is the second most important day in Westfield history – the most important day was September 1960 when Westfield was born.”
The takeover deal, which was struck after six weeks of negotiations, will create a company with assets worth 61 billion euros ($A95 billion), with 104 shopping centres in 13 countries, all of which will carry the Westfield branding.
Frank Lowy said the takeover is a culmination of the strategic direction Westfield has taken since a restructure in 2014, when it separated its UK and US operations from those in Australia and New Zealand, which are now controlled by Scentre Group.
Scentre is not included in the deal with Unibail-Rodamco.
Frank Lowy will retire as chairman of Westfield, but will be chair of a newly created advisory board for Unibail-Rodamco, which will provide the group with strategic advice.
Peter Lowy will be one of two Westfield board members appointed to the supervisory board of Unibail-Rodamco, while Steven Lowy will be chairman of a retail technology company that is being spun out of Westfield.
The family said they will maintain a substantial investment in Unibail-Rodamco.
Westfield will be delisted from the Australian share market, and Unibail-Rodamco will have a secondary listing in Australia, alongside its stapled securities listed in Amsterdam and Paris.
Pending regulatory and shareholder approval, the takeover could be completed by mid-2018.