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Business News

Australians join Reubens in £2bn bid for Chelsfield

The global shopping centre owner Westfield is teaming up with fellow Australian developer Multiplex and the billionaires Simon and David Reuben to carve up the British property group Chelsfield in a deal worth £2.1bn including debt.

Under the offer, to be made formally by the end of the week, Westfield, a joint venture of Multiplex and the Reuben brothers will make a combined cash bid of £585m.

The deal will give Westfield and the Multiplex/Reuben venture control of London's White City mall, which Chelsfield is building. It is expected to become London's largest retail centre.

Merry Hill, a shopping centre near Birmingham owned by Chelsfield, is another lucrative asset.

Under the agreement, Chelsfield's assets, including stakes in eight shopping centres and six retail development sites, would be split between the investors.

Including Chelsfield's debt, the joint bid will be worth £2.1bn. Westfield will invest £1.2bn while Multiplex and the Reubens' vehicle Aldersgate, which already owns 35 per cent of Chelsfield, will split the remaining £900m 50-50.

The Reubens, born into an Iraqi-Jewish family and raised in Bombay, have accumulated a fortune from metal trading and property.

They invested in Chelsfield after knowing Elliott Bernerd, the property group's founder and chairman, as a friend for some years.

The joint bid follows Westfield's solo £585m cash offer and avoids a costly bidding war with Multiplex. A source close to the company said: "It makes it a lot easier for Westfield to have a successful outcome. They have the major shareholders on board."

Multiplex and Aldersgate collectively own about 40 per cent of Chelsfield. HBOS, which holds 13 per cent, and Mr Bernerd, with 11 per cent, have said they would accept the proposed offer.

The deal comes four months after Mr Bernerd took the company private for £2bn. By teaming up with Multiplex, Westfield gets hold of Chelsfield's retail assets without having to buy the entire company.

But Westfield said that if the joint bid proposal does not proceed, it will push ahead with its initial £585m cash offer. It would then also sell Chelsfield's non-retail assets, including office developments and a stake in the Wentworth golf course, a source close to Westfield said.

Under the joint bid proposal, Multiplex hopes to sell Wentworth at a premium to its book value.