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Robert Leitão instrumental in Westfield’s $30 million takeover

People & Companies / Latest News

Australia

Mar 16 2018

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Head of London-based Rothschild Global Advisory Robert Leitão helped push along the $32 billion takeover of Westfield Corporation by Unibail-Rodamco, the largest M&A deal in Australian History. 

This week, scheme documents were lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, with the transaction expected to proceed despite a 15 per cent fall in the Unibail-Rodamco share price over the past few months.

No other bidders emerged making the $8.80 final value of the scrip and cash offer attractive, compared to the recent 10 per cent fall in the price of most Australian real estate investment trusts. 

In 2013 the Lowys decided to split their property empire with the creation of Scentre Group, which holds the Australian and New Zealand assets, and Westfield with its American and European assets.

Leitão, who has been the Lowy family's closest adviser in continental Europe for several decades, told The Australian Financial Review the split set the scene for the current transaction. 

"By splitting the business you knew you were going to expand enormously the aggregate demand for equity by opening the international business up to people who hadn't looked at it because of the Australian exposure.”

Four years later, the deal came to fruition only to fall apart following Unibail-Rodamco’s due diligence process. 

"It all fell apart on the basis that they wanted to pay less than we wanted to receive, and we wanted more then they were prepared to pay," said told the AFR.

"But instead of finding a route forward it blew up and everyone went home.”

The deal was only brought back to life by Frank Lowy, he said. 

"The deal had fallen apart and then I did what bankers do at that point, which is try and put it back together again," says Leitao.

"What eventually happened was we found a common path...Then Frank and I flew to La Bourget to meet with Unibail-Rodamco."

Leitão said that meeting between Lowy and Cuvillier was critical in seeing the deal go ahead. 

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