Australian developer Westfield is in talks to build a third mega mall in London, less than two months after completing the blue-chip Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in the UK capital.
Westfield said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange it had entered exclusive talks with UK charity Whitgift Foundation to explore the possible redevelopment of the 1.2 million sq ft Whitgift mall in Croydon, south London.
Whitgift Foundation owns the mall's freehold. The leasehold is owned by companies including Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo Irish bank, and Royal London Asset Management. Media reports have said Westfield could also be in talks to buy a 50 percent stake in the leasehold.
Our arrangement with Whitgift is designed to allow us now to work with all the parties concerned that have got an interest in there to try and bring forward the major development scheme, said Westfield's John Burton, who oversaw the Stratford City project adjacent to the 2012 Olympic Games venue.
In terms of commenting on the individual stakeholders and how they'll be affected and how we'll work with them (it) is clearly a little bit early, Burton told Reuters.
In its statement, Westfield said Croydon was a strategic location that could attract more than 3 million customers in an area that was currently under-served by high quality retail and leisure facilities.
Westfield owns two super-prime malls in London -- Westfield London in the west and Westfield Stratford City in the east. The latter mall opened in September.
In February, IBRC appointed Jones Lang LaSalle to sell part of its 50 percent leasehold share to a development partner. The bank bought its stake in partnership with Howard Holdings in 2005 for 220 million pounds.
Royal London Asset Management was not immediately able to comment while Whitgift Foundation and IBRC declined to comment.
The Whitgift project will likely provide a boost to the UK's anaemic mall development pipeline, which, since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, has been hurt by project delays and a slowdown in construction activity.
In March, a report by Lunson Mitchenall and the British Consortium of Shopping Centres estimated about 1-4 million sq ft of malls would be opened annually in 2013-15, with nothing slated for 2012.
Separately, Westfield said it had agreed to sell its 75 percent interest in a Nottingham shopping mall for 55 million pounds to Capital Shopping Centres.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Andrew Macdonald)