Australia's Westfield plans $4.7 bln British expansion

Australian shopping centre giant Westfield is to spend some 3.0 billion pounds (US$4.72 billion) expanding in Britain, it said Monday, as it banks on London's resilience to an economic downturn.

The figure refers to what the group's investments will be in Westfield Stratford City and Westfield London, its upmarket centre in Shepherds Bush, over the next few years and referenced existing investment, a spokeswoman for the group said.

"They are big numbers, headline numbers, but we have already invested almost 4.0 billion pounds sterling in two major shopping centres in London over the past few years," Westfield co-chief executive Steven Lowy told The Australian.

"We have plans for further investment in those assets and for other expansion."

Westfield, one of the world's biggest shopping centre operators, would continue to sell off lower-quality assets in favour of upmarket projects, such as the sprawling Westfield London, which opened in 2008, the report said.

"While the UK is still in recession and has been deeply impacted by the global financial crisis in Europe, London in particular has been shown to be a very resilient city, as has Paris (and) the major cities in Germany," Lowy said.

"We believe in London for the long term."

Westfield has investment interests in 111 shopping malls in Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Brazil and Britain.

Westfield posted a full-year net profit of Aus$1.53 billion (US$1.60 billion) in February, a 37.6 percent increase on the previous year.

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