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Unibail drives consolidation talk

Unibail’s takeover of Rodamco has sparked off a round of merger speculation in the property sector.

Unibail Holdings is forming Europe’s biggest listed property company, valued at about €22 billion, through the acquisition of Rodamco Europe.

The new company, which both parties are calling a merger of equals, will have 95 shopping centres in 14 countries.

France’s Unibail is paying €10.8 billion for the company at a premium. However, that has not cooled speculation that it will now seek to acquire Hammerson of the UK. Guillaume Poitrinal, Unibail’s chief executive, says he has plans for further takeovers. John Richards, Hammerson’s chief executive, is not giving up without a fight though. He has said his company is definitely not for sale. But Richards will not have been reassured by the words of John Nelson, Hammerson’s chairman, who was not so certain when he told shareholders at the annual meeting that the company would only consider offers reflecting its future development plans. "It will probably not have escaped your attention that Hammerson has recently been rumoured as a possible takeover target," he said.

Hammerson has a portfolio of £6 billion but Richards has an ambitious development plan for £5 billion-worth of offices and shopping centres over the next decade. It was one of the first UK companies to convert to a Reit at the beginning of this year.

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