Shopaholics around the globe can rejoice. Westfield Holdings (doing business as Westfield Group) makes sure consumers have plenty of places to browse and buy. One of the world's largest retail property owners, it has interest in about 118 shopping centers with more than 10 million sq. meters (114 million sq. ft.) of leasable space. About half of the group's properties are in the US, and the rest are in the Australia and New Zealand, the UK, and Brazil. Westfield Group designs, develops, builds, and manages its retail properties. The company also manages real estate assets on behalf of other investors.
In 2010 Westfield underwent a major recapitalization and spun off some $12 billion of its assets. The restructuring put Westfield's Australian and New Zealand assets into a new joint venture fund, the Westfield Retail Trust. The trust became a 50% owner of Westfield's 55 properties in Australia and New Zealand. Westfield Group remains the developer and manager of the properties. The recapitalization was carried out in order to help the company's long-term growth strategy in each of its markets and spur development in new international markets.
Westfield has properties in Australia and New Zealand, the UK, US, and Brazil. Westfield earns about 35% of its revenues from Australia and New Zealand. The UK makes up another 35%. While the US & Brazil contribute about 30% of revenues.
Net profit at Westfield was up by about 38% in 2011. The increase was the result of many things. The company recapitalization plan helped spur new development and new joint ventures helped spread risk. The overall economic environment also began to stablize and improve.
The company entered new markets in earnest in 2011. The company expanded into Brazil by investing $440 million to acquire 50% of Almeida Junior Shopping Centers, which owns and operates five shopping centers in southern part of the country. Days after that deal was announced, Westfield revealed plans to enter Italy by acquiring a 50% interest in a mall development site in Milan.
Westfield constantly evaluates the quality of its properties and the markets in which they are located. The company is focused on investing in higher-quality assets. It often sells off underperforming properties and builds up its presence in desirable markets. Westfield has been strengthening its British portfolio, specifically with projects in London -- the site of the 2012 Olympics. Westfield's newly-opened Stratford City project (Europe's largest shopping center) is in London. In 2010 Westfield Group agreed to sell 50% of Stratford City's retail component to a joint venture between APG and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for about $1.4 billion.
Geographic diversity helps Westfield weather economic ups and downs. For example, the deterioration of the retail market and declining occupancy rates in the US during the economic downturn were buoyed by new developments in places such as Australia. Westfield's home country (which accounts for about half of its portfolio) is another area of focus for the company. The company has developed new centers in Australia such as Bondi Junction, Doncaster, and the new Westfield Sydney City project, home to Westfield Group's new headquarters.
In the US, Westfield was a little less eager to make big moves or announce major plans for new projects during the economic downturn. In 2009 the company put all worldwide development on hold except for its London and Sydney projects. However, by 2010 the US market began to stabilize and retail sales began to increase. As a result, Westfield began upgrading existing spaces in the US. The company also announced the start of Westfield UTC in San Diego, the first major project in the US in four years.
Other future US development will likely be centered around New York and along the east coast. Westfield owns interest in the retail space at the World Trade Center site. The deal is a joint venture with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Westfield is likely to launch more joint ventures in the US in order to free up capital for growth. One example came in early 2012. Westfield partnered with the Canadian Pension Plan to own a portion of a $4.8 billion portfolio of 12 retail assets in the US.
The company was originally formed in 1960 as Westfield Development Corporation. After 50 years with the company, co-founder Frank Lowy stepped down as executive chairman of Westfield Group in 2011. He became non-executive chairman and handed over the day-to-day operations of the business to his sons. Group managing directors and brothers, Peter and Steven Lowy, are joint CEOs of Westfield Group.