Westfield sees US, UK stabilising; keeps outlook

SYDNEY: Westfield Group, the world's biggest shopping mall owner, saw market conditions continuing to stabilise in the US and UK, and reconfirmed its 2009 earnings guidance.

In a quarterly update on Nov 12, Westfield, which has 62.3 billion of assets under management, maintained its 2009 guidance of 94 to 97 Australian cents per security for both operational earnings and distribution.

"We hit a low point in March. Since March, we have seen two quarters of growth and stabilisation in sales in the US and increase in sales in the UK," co-managing director Steven Lowy said on Nov 12.

"But I think that we have to be cautious and look how Christmas sales go."

Leasing activity in the US has picked up with occupancy levels growing to 92.1% in September from 90.1% in March. US malls make up around 43% of the group's rental income, slightly less than the proportion contributed by its Australian malls.

Lowy said the Australian retail market remains resilient and Westfield might restart some of the development projects next year.

"Given the position conditions in Australia, we are currently reviewing the timing of a number of high-quality projects with the view to recommencing development activity some time in the second half of next year," Lowy said.

Westfield has currently has A$7.9 billion (RM25 billion) of available liquidity, but Peter Lowy, co-managing director, said acquisition opportunities in the US market remain scarce.

"There is not that much around in the space we are dealing earlier in the year and I still don't see products coming onto the market," he said. -- Reuters
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