Westfield Group has announced its expansion into continental Europe with an agreement to acquire a 50% interest in a major development site in Milan, Italy. The site has planning approval to develop a world class iconic regional shopping center similar in scale and quality to Westfield London.
"This acquisition represents a unique long term opportunity, notwithstanding the volatile financial markets at present, to establish our franchise in one of the wealthiest population centers in Europe. We believe that this site represents one of, if not the, best shopping center development opportunities in continental Europe."
Milan, located in the north of Italy is the country's major financial center and has the highest income demographic. It is considered to be one of the world's fashion capital cities.
The Co-CEO of Westfield Group, Steven Lowy AM said: "This opportunity leverages the capabilities we have created in the United Kingdom and in particular at Westfield London and the soon to be opened Stratford City. It represents an exciting long term opportunity to utilize our expertise in creating another truly iconic shopping center in one of the world's great cities.
"Milan is the dominant retail city in Italy for both luxury brands and is the headquarters of many major retail chains including Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Prada and Versace."
The 60-hectare site, adjacent to Milan's Linate airport, is being acquired in joint venture with Gruppo Stilo (GS), an Italian based developer and owner of major retail brands, owned principally by its founder Antonio Percassi.
"Mr Percassi has a long and successful history in the operation of major retail brands in Italy as well as significant experience in retail development. Culturally our two organizations are closely aligned," said Steven Lowy.
Percassi said: "We are delighted to have formed this joint venture with Westfield, a world leader in major shopping center development, management and ownership. I am confident Westfield will bring its global expertise and experience to create the premier mall in Continental Europe."
Managing Director, UK/Europe and New Markets for Westfield Group, Michael Gutman said: "Milan's strong consumer demographic and very low penetration of shopping center space provides an exciting opportunity to develop a unique shopping center of similar quality and scale as the Group's other major iconic centers in Europe, principally Westfield London and Stratford City. Accordingly, we will utilize our London based capabilities in the development and ongoing management of our Milan shopping center.
"The Milan trade area has a population of approximately 5.4 million people and