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New Westfield Owner Starts Putting Malls Up For Sale

Not long after Unibail-Rodamco closed on its purchase of Westfield to create the largest owner of shopping centers in the world, the newly minted Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is planning to sell some of its properties.

Westfield Century City, LA
Westfield Century City in LA

The move is part of the Paris-based mall behemoth's strategy to reduce the debt left over from the deal, the Wall Street Journal reports. So far the company has revealed no details about which properties will be on the block.

Unibail’s loan-to-value ratio was 33% before the acquisition, a figure that the company said rose to 37% of portfolio value when Westfield was acquired. Peter Papadakos, head of Continental Europe at Green Street Advisors, told the WSJ that the figure is closer to 42%.

Altogether, the newly enlarged Unibail owns 102 shopping malls, 13 offices properties and 10 convention centers both domestically and throughout Europe. Its portfolio is valued at $72B. 

Unibail CEO Christophe Cuvillier said the company will sell non-core assets from both the previous Unibail-Rodamco portfolio and Westfield's holdings. The dispositions will involve both retail and office properties, and will continue into this fall.

Whether Unibail will be able to get the price it wants for all of the properties is unknown. On the whole, it is a buyer's market in retail real estate. According to Real Capital Analytics, only $3B in retail real estate sold in April, down 27% from a year ago, and the lowest monthly sales in the sector in more than five years.

The winnowing of non-core properties from Unibail's portfolio will nevertheless leave the European mall giant with ownership of some of the most prominent mall assets in the United States, presumably those best positioned to deal with challenges from e-commerce.