* 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 (Adds details)
SYDNEY, June 20 (Reuters) - 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 assets.
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 at A$10.81.
Reporting By Byron Kaye; Editing by Stephen Coates