* Westfield's second attempt to vote on split succeeds
* A win for Australia's second richest person Frank Lowy
* Shareholders concerned the move devalues their stock
SYDNEY, June 20 Australia's Westfield Group
, the world's biggest retail property group,
was cleared to split its business along geographic lines after
shareholders voted in favour of the move at a meeting on Friday.
The Sydney-based group, headed by Australia's second richest
person Frank Lowy, can now press ahead with its plan to put its
international portfolio into a new company called Westfield Corp
while combining its Australasian property and property
management businesses under the name Scentre.
Shareholders with 76.09 percent of Westfield shares voted in
favour of the split, a Westfield spokesperson told Reuters.
Australian shareholders who opposed the plan had said they
feared their shares would be devalued. They said the resulting
Australasian arm would be less profitable without the
international assets and would carry too much debt.
Adding to the saga, a shareholder meeting last month to vote
on the split was stopped after Lowy said he would carry out a
restructure regardless of the vote and after the board
determined that amounted to "material new information". Lowy
surprised by saying if the resolution failed he would split the
company anyway by setting up a new company which would buy up
Westfield's board had continued to recommend the split. In a
letter to shareholders, lodged with the Australian Securities
Exchange earlier this month, Westfield chairman Dick Warburton
warned that if Lowy set up a new company it would have an
"almost identical property portfolio" but better returns,
creating price risk for what remained of Westfield.
Westfield shares were in a trading halt having last traded
(Reporting By Byron Kaye; Editing by Stephen Coates)