TransAtlantic to float half of Capital & Counties: April flotation of shopping centres will create sixth-largest property company

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TRANSATLANTIC Holdings is to float off half its Capital & Counties property subsidiary in April, creating the sector's sixth-largest company.

The launch provides an opportunity to invest in some of the UK's biggest shopping centres, including the Lakeside complex at Thurrock, Essex.

Capital Shopping Centres, which holds stakes in seven out-of-town centres, is expected to be valued at more than pounds 600m. It will have gross assets of more than pounds 800m offset by loan stock issued to TransAtlantic.

TransAtlantic expects to raise pounds 150m by selling at least 25 per cent of CSC's enlarged equity.

Included in the flotation is a 93 per cent holding in the Harlequin centre in Watford, which TransAtlantic acquired from Sun Alliance earlier this week.

The two parties had been locked in a High Court wrangle over the development until they agreed a pounds 162m out-of-court settlement.

Donald Gordon, TransAtlantic's chairman, said the flotation would have gone ahead without the Harlequin centre but he admitted that it would make the flotation much more attractive.

He said the launch of CSC would provide TransAtlantic, with greater flexibility. He expected the stock market to give CSC a higher value than it enjoyed as part of TransAtlantic.

The group is raising a further pounds 200m through a convertible bond issue, partly to fund the acquisition of the Watford centre from Sun Alliance. The portfolio, which includes stakes in the Eldon Square centre in Newcastle and the Victoria centre in Nottingham, will generate income of about pounds 40m.

Mr Gordon said he expected the new company to create partnerships to develop new sites. He said there were only three really good shopping centres in the UK and room for a further five.

Brian Jolly, who heads Capital & Counties, will be chairman of the new company. The pounds 600m of assets left behind by the flotation will be managed by John Saggers, a director of Capital & Counties.

TransAtlantic's shares closed yesterday at 462p, a rise of 34p.

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