| LONDON, Sept 6
LONDON, Sept 6 A U.S. pension fund has paid 280
million pounds ($445.58 million) to buy a shopping centre 50
miles west of London from a property firm owned by the Duke of
Westminister, one of Britain's richest men.
The deal for the one million square foot Festival Place mall
built in Basingstoke in 2002 is the largest mall deal in almost
two years in a UK market hit by government austerity measures.
The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and College
Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) completed the deal on
Wednesday despite a huge slowdown in shopping centre openings
and sales due to investor concerns over the euro zone debt
crisis and the spending power of Britons.
Festival Place is one of a group of large UK shopping
centres that dominate their catchment area that are prized by
investors as they have weathered the tough retailing climate
better than their smaller rivals.
It had attracted interest from Australian developer Lend
Lease, Canadian investor Oxford Properties and the
Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, two sources familiar
with deal told Reuters.
No major shopping centres are set to open in the UK this
year and property consultancy CBRE Group said in May
that investment in Europe's shopping centres fell to its lowest
level since the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank in
Other malls on sale include London & Stamford and
British Land's joint sale of a majority stake in the
Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield, which is close to a
deal with Norway's sovereign wealth fund for upwards of 1.1
TIAA-CREF, which manages $487 billion in assets for U.S.
university professors and hospital workers, has stepped up its
investments in Europe since opening an office in London in 2008.