Unibail ups CEE footprint in $980 mln malls deal

Fri Feb 5, 2010 6:08am EST

* Unibail-Rodamco buys seven French and Polish malls

* Agrees additional development JV with Simon Ivanhoe

LONDON, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Unibail-Rodamco UNBP.PA has cemented its position as Europe's dominant retail landlord after buying seven French and Polish malls from Simon Property (SPG.N) and Ivanhoe Cambridge for 715 million euros ($980 million).

The deal gives Unibail-Rodamco a much stronger foothold in Poland, where large shopping malls and consumer spending have thrived in spite of cooler economic conditions and freefalling property values across the rest of Europe. [nLEE6CR004]

In addition, Unibail has struck a 50-50 joint venture with Simon and Canadian investor Ivanhoe Cambridge to develop five retail property projects in France, including Les Portes de Gascogne in Toulouse and Les Terrasses de Poncy in Poissy.

The Arkadia mall in Warsaw is seen as the pick of the existing assets, providing 103,128 square metres of retail space in one of central Europe's biggest shopping centres.

"We estimate the purchase could positively impact our stock valuation by at least 3 percent," said JPMorgan analyst Harm Meijer. "In addition, we estimate that the company has around 2 billion euros acquisition power left after this transaction."

Unibail shares were trading 1 percent down at 155 euros by 1046 GMT.

Unibail Chief Executive Guillaume Poitrinal said the assets and the development projects had "excellent" growth prospects.

The company said it would use existing bank facilities to fund the deal, which is expected to close first-half 2010.

Simon's European property disposals are the latest in a series of moves to bolster its balance sheet as the firm extends an opportunistic investment spree in its home market.

Last month, the company sold $2.25 billion of notes after buying Prime Outlets Acquisition Co. for $700 million in December. [ID:nN08212092] [ID:nN19103757]

The company has also appointed bankers to advise it on a possible bid for collapsed real estate giant General Growth Properties GGWPQ.PK, which filed for bankruptcy in April. (Reporting by Sinead Cruise; Editing by Andrew Macdonald) ($1=.7292 Euro) (See www.reutersrealestate.com for the global service for real estate professionals from Reuters)

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