Westfield shareholders approve record Unibail-Rodamco takeover

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Sydney (AFP)

Shareholders in Australian shopping centre giant Westfield overwhelmingly voted Thursday in favour of a record US$24.7 billion takeover by French property giant Unibail-Rodamco.

The proposal, unveiled in December, is the biggest-ever corporate takeover in Australia and will create a combined global portfolio of the merged companies.

Unibail-Rodamco is Europe's biggest commercial landlord while Westfield has a large presence in the United States, Britain and Italy.

"I am pleased that you have approved the merger with Unibail-Rodamco and agreed with the board’s recommendation," Westfield chairman Frank Lowy, who launched the company in 1960, said at his final annual general meeting.

"Of course, there is a tinge of sadness. But I must tell you I am totally at peace with the decision, which is supported by the vast majority of shareholders.

"It is the right thing for all shareholders, and Westfield will be in very good hands with Unibail-Rodamco."

Unibail offered 0.01844 of its shares for every one share of Westfield, plus US$2.67 cash.

At the time it was worth Aus$10.01 per Westfield share, but that has now fallen below nine dollars due to currency volatility and a slump in Unibail's stock price.

Westfield's decision to sell the business comes with mall operators embarking on a consolidation drive as they face increasingly tough competition from online shopping sites.

Unibail has been offloading smaller assets in Europe to focus on bigger shopping centres, which are likely to be better suited to fending off the march of e-commerce giants.

Westfield embarked on a restructuring in 2014, spinning off its Australia and New Zealand business from its international operations into a separate entity, Scentre. These assets are not part of the deal.