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Australian shopping centre giant Westfield to split

A plan by Australian shopping centre giant Westfield Group to split its empire was given the nod by shareholders on Friday in a tight vote that highlighted concerns about the restructure.

SYDNEY: A plan by Australian shopping centre giant Westfield Group to split its empire was given the nod by shareholders Friday in a tight vote that highlighted concerns about the restructure.

The split was announced in December and will see Westfield's Australian and New Zealand businesses, including 47 malls, merged with Westfield Retail Trust, which was spun off from the main company in 2010.

The move will see Westfield Retail Trust become a US$26 billion entity named Scentre that will be listed on the Australian stock market, with a development pipeline for projects worth some US$3 billion.

Westfield Group will be renamed Westfield Corporation with total assets of US$17.6 billion, comprising interests in 44 shopping centres in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe

Westfield Retail Trust shareholders voted 76 per cent in favour of the deal, just above the 75 per cent needed from each firm.

An earlier vote was postponed after proxy votes indicated the threshold might not be met. Almost 98 percent of Westfield Group's shareholders voted in support in May.

Westfield Group chairman Frank Lowy, who will be chairman of both entities, said he was "confident" of the value of the deal.

"Achieving a 75 per cent 'yes' vote was a high hurdle but we were always confident of the intrinsic strategic 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," Lowy said.

Westfield Retail Trust chairman Richard Warburton also said he was "pleased" with the outcome.

"Scentre Group will be an industry leading, internally managed retail property group with the best quality retail portfolio and we look forward to the exciting new opportunities that Scentre Group will provide securityholders," he said.

Superannuation giant UniSuper, which is Westfield Retail Trust's biggest investor, had been against the split but said it would not sell its shares at this time.

"We will decide what we do with our shareholding but this result doesn't trigger any immediate buy or sell decision," UniSuper chief investment officer John Pearce told reporters.

"Clearly the result is a bit disappointing but I respect Westfield's campaign, it was obviously very effective, and we look forward to working with them in the future."

Shares in Scentre are expected to start trading on July 3.

Westfield is one of the world's largest shopping centre operators and Lowy said a purely international focus for the new Westfield Corporation would allow it to be more easily compared with international peers.

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