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LONDON-Liberty International has become the latest British property company to announce plans to convert to REIT status next year. The group is also placing 25 million new ordinary shares, representing up to 7.4% of its share capital, in a bid to raise funds and reduce its debt. That debt comes from Liberty’s euro 622-million ($805-million) purchase of Covent Garden Estate. Funds raised from the offering will also go to progress its euro 1.8 billion ($2.3 billion) development pipeline.

Liberty also revealed plans to consolidate its presence in the Central London retail and leisure market. In addition to the Covent Garden Estate, the company also owns assets in Piccadilly; Regent Street; the Strand; and High Street, Kensington.

The shares will be placed with institutions and other investors. Merrill Lynch International and UBS are handling the stock movement. The group said it would be sending a circular to shareholders containing a proposal to convert to a REIT. The board expects the conversion to take effect at the start of the new year.

Most of Britain’s quoted property companies have now declared their intention to convert to REIT status. These include Slough Estates, British Land and Land Securities.

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