Australia's Westfield Group sells seven U.S. malls to Starwood

SYDNEY Sun Sep 15, 2013 8:35pm EDT

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's Westfield Group (WDC.AX) agreed to sell stakes in seven U.S. shopping malls to an affiliate of Starwood Capital Group for $1.64 billion.

Shopping mall giant Westfield will keep a 10 percent equity interest in the centres, with Starwood, a private real estate investment company, owning and managing the majority interest.

Westfield's shares rose 1.1 percent to A$10.75 ($9.94) in early trade on Wednesday, while the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.74 percent.

The Westfield sales, which build on acquisition activity in the U.S. retail property sector, come as it shifts capital away from assets that are not central to the business.

"We are focused on redeploying our capital into superior retail destinations in major cities through divesting non-core assets and introducing joint venture partners into our high quality portfolio of assets," Westfield co-chief executive Peter Lowy said in a statement.

After these deals, which are expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2013, Westfield will own and operate 40 shopping centres in the U.S.

The deal comes after Starwood last year bought a 90 percent stake in seven U.S. shopping malls and acquired another from Westfield for a total of $1.15 billion.

(Reporting by Jackie Range; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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