Centro plans to acquire New Plan Excel Realty Trust

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Sydney, Centro Properties Group and Centro Retail Trust have agreed to buy US-listed real estate investment trust New Plan Excel Realty Trust Inc for about 3.7 bln usd, Centro said in a statement.

Centro said it will pay cash of 33.15 usd a share cash for New Plan, which specializes in convenience retail property. Its portfolio comprises 467 properties, including 453 shopping centers in 38 US states and 14 other real estate assets.

The $33.15-a-share offer for New Plan is 13 percent more than yesterday's closing price. The New York-based trust owns stakes in 467 neighborhood shopping centers across 38 states, the Melbourne-based buyer said in a statement today. Including debt, the $6.2 billion deal is the biggest U.S. acquisition by an Australia-based real estate investment trust.

It is Centro's sixth U.S. acquisition in a series of deals since August 2003 that has transformed the company from an operator of regional centers in Australia into an international shopping mall owner. The transaction adds to more than $73 billion of real estate takeovers that have been announced globally this year.

"It's a good strategy if they can pull it off," said Rob Patterson, who manages the equivalent of $2.5 billion at Argo Investments Ltd. in Adelaide, including Centro stock.

Centro is making the purchase with Centro Retail Trust, which is run and 50 percent owned by the company. It will fund the deal by selling A$1.25 billion ($985 million) in new shares in Centro and the trust, partly through a rights offer to existing trust investors, and by raising a further A$750 million using a combination of fund inflows and hybrid financing.

New Plan directors have unanimously recommended shareholders accept the offer.

Centro Properties chief executive Andrew Scott said the acquisition provides Centro Retail with increased exposure to quality US retail property at appropriate valuations and Centro with an expanded management platform.

New Plan is Centro's third acquisition in the US. Last year it bought the Karmont and Heritage real estate investment trusts.

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