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LONDON-Land Securities, the UK’s biggest quoted property company, is expected to face tough competition in the race to buy a £500 million ($790 million) portfolio of retail parks.

A spokeswoman for the company refused to comment on recent press speculation that Land Securities has appointed advisors to bid for the parks, owned by retailer Kingfisher.But speculation in the market is that a formal bid from the company will be made within days.

Land Securities is unlikely to have a clear run. Scottish developer Miller Properties is also said to be interested and industry insiders expect offers from British Land and Hammerson, which recently acquired retail park specialist Grantchester for £252 million ($383 million).

Other bidders are likely to be Pillar Property and Capital & Regional, which recently formed a retail park fund with Morley Fund Management. Henderson Investors, the fund-management arm of AMP, is expected to lead the charge of institutional bids for the assets.

The strong interest reflects the rarity value of the 15-park portfolio, which Kingfisher put up for sale earlier this year through its property subsidiary Chartwell Land. The retailer plans to restructure itself as a pure DIY group and cut £2.2 billion ($3.4 billion) of debt through the sale of the properties.

Rarity factor aside, the portfolio is attractive because the successful B&Q chain is anchor tenant in each park. There are also five development sites as part of the package, all the more valuable given the tight planning regime in the UK.

The marketing comes at an opportune time. Out-of-town retail parks have proven to be the best performing property asset class this year and over recent years Chartwell has secured returns of more than 17% a year on its retail warehouse portfolio compared to 10% from high street stores.

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