Westfield Trust increases distribution to $388.4 million

01 February 2001

Countries: Australia

Westfield Trust today announced a distribution to unit holders of $388.4 million for the year to 31 December 2000, an increase of 17.4% on last year.

The result represents a distribution of 22.11 cents per unit, a 3.3% increase over last year’s 21.41 cents per unit, with 14.1% of the distribution tax advantaged.

The assets of Westfield Trust totalled $8.15 billion at 31 December 2000, up 10.7% from $7.36 billion last year. Unit holders’ equity is $5.28 billion, up 17.3% from $4.50 billion last year.

The Trust’s net asset backing increased by 4.8%, from $2.72 per unit at December 1999 to $2.85 per unit at December 2000, largely due to revaluations of a number of the Trust’s shopping centres.

Westfield Managing Director Steven Lowy said the Directors were pleased with the results for the year and the fact that the shopping centres in both Australia and New Zealand had continued to perform well with occupancy levels remaining in excess of 99% of retail space.

Westfield Trust has continued to record strong investment returns for unit holders over the short, medium and long term as shown in the table below:

Compound annual rates of return (%pa) as at 31 December 2000

1 Year

3 Years

5 Years

10 Years

18 Years (Since listing)

Westfield
Trust

21.95%

12.22%

14.94%

15.65%

16.95%

ASX Property Trust Index

18.06%

9.79%

12.76%

12.49%

14.16%

ASX All Ordinaries

3.60%

10.32%

11.54%

13.71%

15.49%

“Westfield Trust has consistently outperformed the Property Trust and All Ordinaries indices since it listed in 1982,” Mr Lowy said. “This has been achieved through many economic cycles and is due to the quality of the shopping centre assets that comprise the Trust’s portfolio and Westfield’s intensive management approach.

“The Trust’s redevelopment program, which is designed to ensure Westfield shopping centres anticipate and meet the changing needs of both retailers and consumers, is a major factor in this long term outperformance.”

Highlights of the year:

Australia

Analysis of retail sales in Australia in 2000 was complicated significantly by a range of one-off factors, including the introduction of a new tax regime halfway through the year. For this reason, and for purposes of comparison, retail sales are defined as gross consumer spending. That is, retail sales figures provided by retailers plus an adjustment for GST*.

Retail sales at Westfield shopping centres in Australia totalled $8.17 billion, an increase of 9.2% over the previous year. Comparable sales in 2000 were affected by the fact that, during the year, about one third of the portfolio was either undergoing redevelopment or had only recently been launched following the completion of redevelopment projects. Excluding these centres, comparable sales grew by 2.4%.

Sales in the period leading up to 1 July 2000 were strong, reflecting increased purchasing ahead of the introduction of the GST, but sales softened in the second half of the year in line with the general retail sales environment. Indications from retailers are that current sales remain soft.

Four major redevelopment projects, worth a total of approximately $1 billion were launched during the year: Chatswood in Sydney and Southland in Melbourne (final stages launched in May 2000), Burwood in Sydney (August 2000) and Chermside in Brisbane (September 2000).

All these projects were completed successfully and featured a total of 1,245 new retailers, including 240 retailers who had not previously leased space in a Westfield shopping centre.

Carousel in Perth, which was completed in October 1999, had a successful first full year of trading with retail sales increasing by 74% to $323 million, making it the highest grossing shopping centre in Western Australia. In December 2000, its first Christmas trading period since redevelopment, Southland achieved the highest sales of any Westfield shopping centre in Australia and is now exceeding $500 million in annual sales, making it one of the highest grossing shopping centres in Australia.

During the year, work commenced on redevelopment projects at Fountain Gate in Melbourne and Hornsby in Sydney while planning for the redevelopment of Bondi Junction in Sydney, a joint venture with AMP, is well advanced and the project received NSW Government approval in January 2001.

Westfield Trust was involved in two significant property transactions in 2000. Together with Deutsche Asset Management, it purchased Westfield Mount Druitt in Sydney for $236 million (Westfield Trust’s share was $118 million), representing an initial yield of 8.2% (pre-acquisition costs). Westfield Trust also sold its 50% interest in Indooroopilly in Brisbane for $300 million, representing a yield of 5.7%.
Thirteen Australian shopping centres were revalued during the year, resulting in a revaluation surplus of $148.7 million. The centres were Marion, Tea Tree Plaza and Arndale (Adelaide), Southland, Airport West and Doncaster (Melbourne), Belconnen (ACT), Toombul (Brisbane) and Figtree, Warrawong, Burwood, Bondi Junction Carousel and Bondi Junction Plaza (NSW).

New Zealand

In August 2000, investors in St Lukes Group voted in favour of a proposal to amalgamate Westfield Trust and St Lukes Group. As a result, Westfield Trust increased its interest in St Lukes’ portfolio of 11 New Zealand shopping centres from 46.4% to 100%. The Directors are pleased with the investment as the centres continue to perform well.

A major focus for Westfield Trust’s New Zealand operations is the NZ$1 billion redevelopment program. The first development in this program, the NZ$100 million development of Glenfield in Auckland, was launched in October. It opened fully leased and is performing above expectations.

The first stage of the NZ$80 million redevelopment of WestCity in Auckland also opened successfully in November. The second stage, including The Street entertainment and lifestyle concept, is expected to open in mid-2001.

Both these centres opened as Westfield Shoppingtowns after the Westfield brand was launched officially in New Zealand in September. The successful launch of the brand was reinforced through the inaugural Westfield Works Wonders charity event that attracted more than 80,000 New Zealanders to nine Westfield Shoppingtowns on one evening. Westfield Works Wonders raised NZ$400,000 for New Zealand charities in just three hours, one of the largest charity fundraising events in New Zealand history.
Retail sales for the year at Westfield shopping centres in New Zealand were NZ$1.27 billion, representing an increase of 1.2% on a comparable basis.

Nine New Zealand shopping centres were revalued in June, resulting in an increment of A$21.7 million.
The Glenfield and WestCity projects have set a new standard for shopping centres in New Zealand and highlight the fact that Westfield Trust is putting in place the building blocks for long term growth for unit holders through the redevelopment program, branding, and management and leasing strategies.

Outlook

“The retail sales environment and economic conditions have softened recently,” Mr Lowy said, “nevertheless due to the quality of the Westfield Trust portfolio it is expected that distributions will continue to grow in the coming year.”

* From 1 July 2000, retailers provided sales figures excluding GST. Adjustments for the new tax regime are based on estimates supplied by Jebb Holland Dimasi