Australian retail giant Westfield said Wednesday it would sell off eight US shopping malls for US$1.15 billion to repay debt and fund its development of New York's new World Trade Center.
Westfield, one of the world's biggest shopping centre operators, said it would dispose of the eight "non-core" malls in Illinois, New England, California, Ohio and Florida as part of strategic reshuffling plans.
"The proceeds from the transactions will initially pay down corporate debt and then be redeployed in higher return development opportunities in the US, including the World Trade Center," said Westfield co-chief Peter Lowy.
"We have previously flagged the potential divestment of non-core assets in the US and this transaction is an important step in the repositioning of our portfolio to major retail assets with strong retail characteristics," he added in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.
Starwood Capital Group, a Connecticut-based private equity firm, would take a majority stake in seven of the shopping centres and "manage and control" the assets. Westfield would retain a 10-percent stake.
The eighth centre, Eastland in California's West Covina, would be "sold in a separate transaction", the retailer said.
The remodelled World Trade Center, which is to include a memorial and museum to the September 11 attacks, will feature 550,000 square feet of retail space due to open in 2015.
New York's Port Authority in February cleared Westfield to take a US$612.5 million 50-percent stake in developing, leasing and operating the site's retail and dining space.
The Australian firm has investment interests in 111 shopping malls in its home country, the United States, New Zealand, Brazil and Britain, where it recently opened a retail centre adjacent to the London 2012 Olympic venues.
Westfield posted full-year net profit of Aus$1.53 billion (US$1.59 billion) in February, a 37.6 percent increase on the previous year.