Westfield Trust today increased its distribution growth forecasts for the full years ended 31 December 2003 and 2004, to 4.5% in 2003 and 4.0% for 2004. This increase in distribution growth is primarily attributed to the expected positive impact of the $1.9 billion AMP Shopping Centre Trust
(ART) acquisition. Westfield Trust also reported today a net profit after tax of $258.3 million for the half year ended 30 June 2003, an increase of 10.0% on the same period last year.
The Trust will pay a distribution of 12.22 cents per unit for the six months ended 30 June 2003, up 4.2% over the previous corresponding period. 'This strong result reflects the intensive management of Westfield Trust assets, the quality of the shopping centre portfolio, solid retail conditions and the positive impact of recent acquisitions,' said Westfield Managing Director Steven Lowy. 'We are extremely pleased at the successful completion during the period of a number of significant transactions within such a highly competitive retail property environment.' At 30 June 2003, the Trust´s total assets were $12.4 billion, an increase of 34.8% over the position at 30 June 2002. Unitholders´ equity attributable to members of Westfield Trust is $6.7 billion up 11.8% from 30 June 2002 with the Trust´s net asset backing increasing from $2.99 to $3.12 per unit over the 12 months.
Retail sales in Westfield Trust´s 31 Australian centres totalled $ 9.7 billion, up 4.5% for the 12 months to 30 June 2003. On a comparable basis, retail sales in our centres have increased by 5.2%. Comparable specialty store sales increased by 6.5% over the previous corresponding period. Retail sales at Westfield´s 12 shopping centres in New Zealand increased 4.4% to NZ$1.5 billion for the 12 months to 30 June 2003. On a comparable basis, this represented an increase of 2.6% over the previous corresponding period, with specialty stores up 2.3%. 'One of the notable features of the portfolio sales results has been the particularly strong performance from shopping centres which have benefited from major capital investment made over the last few years,' Mr Lowy said. The occupancy level of the Westfield Trust portfolio remains in excess of 99.5% of retail space. This reflects the ongoing demand for retail space in
existing Westfield centres and new projects.
In March, Westfield Trust acquired Sydney Central Plaza for $401 million inclusive of transaction costs. This purchase follows Westfield Trust´s acquisition of Centrepoint in December 2001 and consolidates the Trust´s prime position within the major retail precinct of Sydney´s CBD. 'It is pleasing to note that the management initiatives to increase the income of Sydney Central Plaza, which were identified prior to the purchase, have already been implemented,' Mr Lowy said. Following the $1.9 billion
successful acquisition of ART, Westfield Management Ltd was appointed as
Responsible Entity of ART on 11 August 2003. As a result, the Trust now has interests in a further eight high-quality regional shopping centres. As part of this transaction, the Trust also sold $724 million of shopping centre properties to Centro Property Trust (ASX: CEP) - Toombul in Brisbane, Galleria in Perth and Colonnades in Adelaide which comes out of the ART portfolio. The combined profit from the sale of Toombul and
Galleria was $60 million. On 30 June 2003, Westfield Trust entered into a $320 million joint venture with the Perron Group involving two shopping centres in Victoria. Under the joint venture, Westfield Trust acquired a 50% interest in Bay City Plaza shopping centre, in Geelong, for $72 million, while the Perron Group acquired a 50% stake in Westfield Trust´s Airport West shopping centre in Melbourne´s north west for $87.7 million.
The Trust´s profit from the sale of Airport West was $3.7 million.
The Trust´s property portfolio now comprises interests in 51 shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand, with 3.1