Europe's Unibail bids $16 billion for Westfield to counter online threat

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Still, some analysts argue the cash and stock offer that values Westfield at 18 percent more than Monday's closing price is a high price, given the challenging times for the industry.

"Unibail is mounting the biggest takeover of a company in the Asia-Pacific region this year - and the largest ever in Australia - as mall owners seek to contend with relentless pressure from online commerce".

Sir Frank Lowy, who co-founded Westfield in the 1960s, described the deal as the culmination of a strategic plan that the Australian company launched three years ago, when its Australian and New Zealand assets were separated from those in the United Kingdom and US.

Once the deal is completed, the combined group will have gross market value of $95.43 billion.

"We look forward to welcoming Westfield's securityholders as shareholders in the new Group, and continuing to create significant value for our existing and new shareholders".

"The deal gives Europe-focused Unibail (UNBP.AS), which owns "Les 4 Temps" and 'Forum des Halles" in Paris and has centres spreading from Helsinki to Valencia, exposure to the United States and Britain, where Westfield (WFD.AX) operates 35 malls, including landmark premises in London.

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Christophe Cuvillier, chief executive of Unibail-Rodamco, said his company was attracted to Westfield's "iconic collection of world-class shopping destinations". Westfield has some of the best shopping centres in the world. The company has 8.1 billion euros ($9.5 billion) of planned projects, according to its website.

"Assets I've spent my life building, I could not imagine a better home for them than in this new company", Frank Lowy said via a webcast from London. New York-based hedge fund Third Point is pushing for change at Macerich (MAC), including a possible sale, after building a stake in the real estate investment trust, people familiar with the matter said last month.

Mr Lowy will retire as chairman of Westfield, but will chair an advisory board for the new company, while his sons Peter and Steven will also retain leadership roles. Even after getting a boost from Brookfield's interest, GGP shares are down 6.4 percent since the beginning of the year.

Jill Margo, author of a biography, Frank Lowy: Pushing the Limits, says the awful experiences of the second world war instilled a deep sense of the importance of family and of determination in Sir Frank.

They have fallen more than 20 per cent since mid a year ago as investors fret about the ability of shopping centre owners to continue delivering fat returns amid the rise of online shopping. "Will it be choppy?"

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