EDINBURGH - Bloomberg
Liberty International, the largest owner of U.K. shopping centers, rose the most in five months after Simon Property Group disclosed a stake of more than 3 percent.
Simon Property, the biggest U.S. owner of malls, bought acquired voting rights over 12.5 million Liberty shares, the London-based company said Friday in a statement.
�They're trying to take advantage of what they perceive is value in a high-quality European retail portfolio,� said Jonathan Miniman, a vice president at ING Clarion Real Estate Securities, which held 3.9 percent of Simon shares as of June 30. �Liberty International has one of the best, if not the best� collections of British malls, he said.
Liberty has fallen 12 percent this year on concern its malls would perform worse than expected as consumer spending slows. Appraised values of British shopping centers and retail outlets slid 9 percent in the six months ended June 30, according to Investment Property Databank Ltd. That's the fourth consecutive quarter U.K. retail properties have lost value, as a curb in lending by banks has dried up investment demand.
Former Liberty chairman Donald Gordon, 78, and family trusts own about a 25 percent stake in the company. Simon's holding �gives them a seat at the table� should the family choose to liquidate their position, Miniman said.
On Aug. 6, Liberty, owner of Europe's largest mall, the MetroCentre in Gateshead, dropped the most since its listing in London when it unexpectedly set aside money for potential lost rental income as tenants ran into difficulties.
�The stake building should be taken seriously and underpins our view that U.K. property stocks own generally high quality assets with long-term value creation prospects,� JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Harm Meijer said in a note to clients.