Westfield Group announces first half distribution of A$873.6m in line with forecast (AUS)

The Westfield Group (ASX: WDC) today announced its first result under the new A-IFRS, reporting a net profit of A$1,534.5 million for the six months to 30 June 2005 including net property income, before revaluations, of A$1,169 million. The distribution for the period was A$873.6 million, representing 51.07 cents per stapled security.

The distribution is in line with forecasts contained in the Explanatory Memorandum (dated 25 May 2004) for the merger of Westfield Holdings, Westfield Trust and Westfield America Trust, completed in July 2004.

Managing directors, Peter Lowy and Steven Lowy, said that the underlying strength and stability of the Group's earnings is largely attributable to the high quality of the Group's shopping centre portfolio in established markets around the world.

The Group's shopping center operations in all markets continue to perform well. Specialty retail sales continue to show positive signs in the United States, Australian and New Zealand markets with the United Kingdom remaining relatively flat. In particular, in the United States, the Group has reported strong performances on both the East and West coasts.

Leasing also continues to be strong in all markets with Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom at almost full occupancy. In the United States the portfolio is currently 93.5% leased compared to 92.5% at the same time last year.

As at 30 June 2005, the Westfield Group had interests in 126 shopping centers with a value of approximately A$46.3 billion. The centers accommodate approximately 20,900 retailers and comprise approximately 10.2 million square metres of retail space.
Other highlights for the period include:

  • Commencement of 5 additional developments with an aggregate project cost of A$1.5 billion. The Group's current development program with 17 projects under construction for an aggregate project cost of A$6.7 billion (Westfield Group share: A$4.1 billion), is larger than at any time in the Group's history;
  • Acquisition of A$1.2 billion of shopping center assets (A$650 million in Australia, US$320 million in the United States and £65 million in the United Kingdom. Gross value of investments under management increased by 10.5% to A$46.3 billion. The increased value of the Group's shopping centre portfolio has been driven by revaluations, the acquisition of new properties and the completion of redevelopments.)
  • Further diversification of the Group's debt funding sources with a debut issue in the Eurobond market raising the equivalent of A$2.35 billion.

The directors reconfirm the distribution forecasts contained in the Explanatory Memorandum for the periods to 30 June 2006 as well as the financial year distribution forecast to 31 December 2005 of 106.5 cents per stapled security.

It has been another positive period for the Group with the strong operating results, ongoing development, acquisition and financing transactions undertaken over the last six months further strengthening the platform for future income and capital growth.

Source: Westfield

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