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Mall bidding war?

By Chris Hutching

Friday 28th March 2003

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One of the biggest deals involving New Zealand retail property was finalised when Australian-based mall owner Westfield Trust bought a 16.9% stake in the AMP Shopping Centre Trust this week for $265 million.

The deal was the focus of financial reporting in Australia earlier this week.

In New Zealand the trust owns Botany Town Centre, Manukau Supa Centa and Lynn Mall.

In response to the purchase the Australian Stock Exchange-listed AMP Shopping Centre Trust units climbed to a record $A1.80.

Analysts said that the AMP Trust's nine malls were popular because Australian investors have relatively limited opportunities to invest in shopping centres due to zoning difficulties, compared with office and industrial property.

AMP Life, advised by Merrill Lynch, retains a 20% stake in the trust.

It is unclear whether Westfield plans to stay as a long-term holder or was reacting to an earlier bid by "hostile" suitor Centro Properties, which has 19.9% of the trust.

The Centro bid values the shares at about $A1.67.

Analysts suspect the takeover tussle has more chapters to run and that neither Westfield nor Centro will be prepared to remain content at the current levels.

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