Westfield Corporation, one of the world’s largest shopping center operators, announced Monday that it sold five of its malls in the U.S. for $1.1 billion to help fund a $11.4 billion property development program as part of its strategy to divest from non-core assets. The Sydney-based company said it will use the proceeds from the sale to reduce its debt exposure.

“Our strategic focus is to create and operate flagship assets in leading markets and divest non-core assets. Today’s announcement marks a significant milestone in our divestment strategy,” CEO Peter Lowy said in a statement released Monday, adding: “Our investment program is almost entirely weighted toward our Flagship assets with estimated development yields in the range of 7-8% and is expected to create significant long-term value and earnings growth for security holders.”

In November, the company divested from Westfield Carlsbad mall, which was bought by New York's Rouse Properties for $170 million. The latest statement said that together with the Carlsbad transaction, Westfield will realize about $1 billion in net proceeds, which will be used towards reducing gearing -- the company’s debt as a percentage of equity capital -- by 3 percent.

The five malls sold are Connecticut Post in Milford, Connecticut; Fox Valley in Aurora, Illinois; Hawthorn in Vernon Hills, Illinois; MainPlace in Santa Ana, California; and Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington. The buyer was a joint venture comprising Dallas-based Centennial Real Estate Co., Montgomery Street Partners in Washington and USAA Real Estate in Texas. The transaction was settled Friday, the statement said

Westfield, which manages over $25 billion of assets, currently has 44 shopping malls spread across the U.S., Britain and Europe. The company is now trying to focus on new flagship properties, including the World Trade Center project in New York worth $1.4 billion, Agence France-Presse reported.

Westfield employs about 2,000 globally. The company’s shares fell 2.2 percent in Sydney Monday morning, Bloomberg reported.