Westfield selling its empire for $32.74 billion

Westfield has a prominent position in London and elsewhere in the U.K

Westfield has a prominent position in London and elsewhere in the U.K. Geography

"The acquisition of Westfield is a natural extension of Unibail-Rodamco's strategy of concentration, differentiation and innovation". Unibail-Rodamco, which is the largest mall operator in Europe, will replace its properties with the Westfield logo.

The Lowy family, which owns 9.0 percent of Westfield, said they would rather be investors than executives after putting in a combined 145 years at the company, which has stakes in 18 suburban USA shopping centers, three of which it wholly owns.

Once dominant United States department store operators such as Macy's Inc (M.N) and J C Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) have announced plans to shut hundreds of stores in recent years, putting pressure on landlords to find new "anchor tenants" or come up with new ways to grow returns. Westfield, which started off in Sydney in the 1950s, is known for its 35 upscale shopping centers in major metropolitan areas, particularly in the US and Britain.

An emotional Lowy said he and his sons will continue to serve in advisory roles to the new company, while his family will maintain a "substantial investment in the group".

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The new combined empire will operate under the Westfield brand and be one of the world's leading developers and operaters of shopping centres, across 104 locations, with 27 of those in capital cities, and a total value of AUD$95.52 billion (US$72.2 billion).

John Colley of Warwick Business School told International Business Times Australia that consolidation in the retail property industry is accelerating.

Shares in Unibail-Rodamco, which was formed in 2007 by the merger of France's Unibail and Dutch-based Rodamco, were down 4.0 percent at 1500 GMT, with analysts at Kepler Cheuvreux saying that the deal looked expensive.

Westfield's share price is down about 10 percent in 2017.

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Lowy said: "The transaction announced today is the culmination of the strategic journey Westfield has been on since its 2014 restructure". The company on Tuesday said this had set it up for the Unibail deal.

One challenge he faced was a shareholder revolt in 2014 over his proposal to demerge Westfield's Australian and New Zealand assets from the US and United Kingdom portfolio, they continue.

He was knighted last week in a ceremony at Windsor Castle in recognition of his contribution to the British economy.

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