Liberty buys Covent Garden in £421m deal

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The Independent Online

The tourist hotspot of Covent Garden market, home to some of the biggest names in UK retail, changed hands yesterday in a deal worth £421m.

The property giant Liberty acquired the piazza from its joint owners, Henderson Global Investors and Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, via its Capital & Counties arm. The deal includes 31 sites and 450,000 sq ft of selling space.

Scottish Widows acquired Covent Garden Market in 2000 and set up a joint venture with Henderson the following year. The fund managers auctioned off the site after receiving an unsolicited offer of around £360m. Analysts had predicted the piazza, which also has restaurants, bars and offices, would fetch £450m.

John Saggers, managing director of Capital & Counties, said the iconic market complemented his group's focus on retail assets with a "scarcity value" that needed to be actively and creatively managed.

Liberty's bid trumped interest from the Irish property developer David Arnold and fellow countrymen Paddy McKillen and Tony Leonard. Liberty, Britain's third-biggest listed property company, is expected to convert into a real estate investment trust, a low-tax form of investment being introduced from next January.