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NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA-In an agreement valued at $1.4 billion, one of Australia’s largest retail shopping centers has a new investment structure that brings in the Government of Singapore’s global real estate fund. The Westfield Group, a self-managed Australian shopping-center REIT, has sold a 50% ownership interest in its Westfield Parramatta complex to the Singapore entity.

The GIC Real Estate Ptc Ltd. contributed $717.5 million, in line with the book value of the property as of December 31st, and Westfield has rolled its remaining 50% interest in the property into the new fund.

“This joint venture allows us to partner with one of the largest retail property groups in the world,” says GIC RE president Seek Ngee Huat in announcing the agreement yesterday. “With the consistent showing by Australia’s retail property sector, we are confident that our investment in Westfield Parramatta will enhance the performance of our global portfolio.”

Other shopping centers invested in by GIC RE include the Queen Victoria Building in Australia, Roma Est in Rome and Sunway Pyramid Mall in Malaysia. GIC RE hopes to pursue future retail projects globally, says Huat, and will seek to join Westfield in more Australian deals.

Westfield Parramatta is a fully enclosed, five-level super regional shopping center in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta. Besides some 500 specialty stores, the mall includes such retailers as David Jones, KMart, Target and Woolworth’s, as well as a Greater Union Cinemas operation. Linked to the Paramatta bus and rail interchange, the project is considered an example of smart growth development. According to Westfield Group managing director Steven Levy, Westfield Parramatta accesses a local trade area in excess of $6.7 billion in spending power.

The Sydney retail market has enjoyed a solid run during the past two years, according to report by CB Richard Ellis that shows rental growth is on the rise and vacancies are declining. As a result, retail sales in New South Wales reached a record last year, and new construction is expected to produce another 4.6 million sf by the end of the decade, nearly all of it in the region that includes Parramatta. Shopping center sales ballooned by 39.4% in 2006 over 2005, says the report, which estimates $839.2 million worth of retail real estate changed hands last year.

The market has been somewhat shaky due to a housing slump, but CB Richard Ellis is forecasting positive employment and wage gains in the market going forward.

Ranked among the world’s top 10 global real estate investment funds, GIC RE manages a multi-billion portfolio covering more than 150 investments in 30 countries. The Westfield Group is an internally managed, vertically integrated retail REIT that participates in a range of ventures, from development and ownership to asset management, construction and leasing of space. The REIT employs more than 4,400 people and has interests in 121 shopping centers in four countries with a total value of A$60 billion. As part of the Parramatta joint venture, Westfield has been appointed as leasing and property manager of the center.

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