Whittaker in talks with Liberty over Trafford Centre sale

Michael Hunt

Peel Holdings owner John Whittaker has been reported to be in talks with the FTSE 100 property company Liberty International about the possibility of selling the Trafford Centre.

Liberty, owner of the Metrocentre in Tyneside, is struggling to raise £350m through a rights issue and this all-share deal could be one option to plug the funding shortfall.

Discussions are said to remain at a preliminary stage and striking an agreement over valuation of the Trafford Centre is likely to prove a stumbling block.

Around £800m of publicly traded bonds are secured against the Trafford Centre, making it easier for a purchaser to finance a deal because the bond debt is already in place.

Peel reportedly would take payment for the centre in new Liberty shares and the additional equity would help Liberty agree extended facilities with its banks.

The report said Liberty is considering other options including selling off some of its stake in Covent Garden in London.

Whittaker has always regarded the Trafford Centre as a prized asset for Peel, so if a deal was agreed it would be a major u-turn for his company, which has traditionally held onto assets it has developed.

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