Westfield Trust today announced a net profit after tax of $234.8 million for the half year ended 30 June 2002, an increase of 9.7% on the same period last year.
This represents a distribution of 11.73 cents per unit, up 2.7% over the previous corresponding period with 35% of the distribution tax advantaged.
The growth in distribution reflects existing centre income growth, contributions from recently completed developments as well as the accretive effect of a number of capital transactions completed last year.
The assets of Westfield Trust totalled $9.2 billion at 30 June 2002, up 8.5% from 30 June 2001. UnitholdersÂ' equity attributable to members of Westfield Trust is $6.0 billion up 11.0% from 30 June 2001. The TrustÂ's net asset backing increased from $2.87 to $2.99 per unit over the 12-month period.
Westfield Managing Director Steven Lowy said the directors were pleased with the results, which reflected the strength of the TrustÂ's shopping centre portfolio, the intensive management focus of the Westfield team and the improving retail environment.
Retail sales in Westfield TrustÂ's 29 Australian centres totalled $8.8 billion for the 12 months to 30 June 2002, an increase of 7.2%. On a comparable basis this represents an increase of 2.4%
During the six-month period, retail sales in our Australian portfolio showed clear signs of improvement. Retail sales on a comparable basis increased 4.3% for the half year and 5.2% for the quarter to 30 June 2002.
Retail sales in Westfield TrustÂ's 11 New Zealand centres totalled $NZ1.4billion for the 12 months to 30 June 2002, representing an increase of 2.3%. On a comparable basis sales increased by 0.2% for the 12 months, 1.9% for the half year and 3.2% for the quarter to 30 June 2002, also showing an improving trend for the period.
Consistent with the improving retail environment demand for retail space has strengthened with occupancy rates in our shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand remaining in excess of 99% during the period.
In April, work began on the $680 million redevelopment of the Bondi Junction centre in Sydney. The project will consolidate three existing retail sites into one world-class shopping and entertainment centre to serve the high-income trade area in SydneyÂ's eastern suburbs.
On completion, the centre will comprise around 100,000 square metres of retail space. This is the largest project undertaken by the Trust and, given the strength of market demographics, on completion Westfield Bondi Junction is expected to rank among the top centres in the country.
In June, work commenced on the $30 million Homemaker Retail Campus at Fountain Gate in Melbourne. When completed, the campus will total 20,000 square metres and house major retailers such as Coles MyerÂ's Megamart, a Kmart Garden Super Centre and Warehouse, together with the existing retailers of Freedom Furniture and Baby Target.
In New Zealand, construction is well under way on the $NZ55 million redevelopment of the St Lukes shopping centre in Auckland. St Lukes is already New ZealandÂ's premier shopping location and the flagship of the Westfield Trust NZ portfolio. The project is expected to be finished in the first half of 2003.
Construction is set to commence on the first stage of a new shopping centre at North Lakes, in north Brisbane. The first stage, with project costs of approximately $67 million, will comprise 25,000 square metres of retail space and include a Coles supermarket, Target discount department store along with 60 specialty retailers. Westfield North Lakes will also feature an outdoor restaurant and lifestyle precinct catering for this fast-growing northern region of Brisbane.
This is the first of a multi-stage project, which will see Westfield North Lakes develop, over time, into a major shopping destination. The 25-hectare site has zoning approval for up to 80,000 square metres of retail/bulky goods floor space. This gives it the capacity to fulfill the future needs of the local population, which is growing at 2.4%, or