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Oct. 20, 2020, 3:54 a.m. EDT

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield dismisses critism

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By Joshua Kirby

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield SE late Monday called for shareholders to vote in favor of its plan to reinforce its balance sheet through measures including a capital raise of 3.5 billion euros ($4.12 billion) after a group of investors last week criticized the plan and called for a change in strategy.

The real-estate company said its supervisory board met Monday and reiterated its support for the plan, which also includes disposals of assets worth EUR4 billion by the end of 2021, as well as savings via reduced cash dividends and capital expenditure.

The company called on investors to vote for its plan at an extraordinary general meeting scheduled for Nov. 10, and against the resolutions set out by the consortium of investors critical of the proposed measures.

Supervisory Board Chairman Colin Dyer said the measures would strengthen the balance sheet in a "volatile and uncertain environment" and ensure the company remained flexible.

Last week a group of investors led by Leon Bressler, the former chief executive and chairman of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield predecessor Unibail, said it would vote against the plan and encouraged other shareholders to do the same. The group holds a stake of around 4.1% in the company.

The group also called for a change in strategy to focus on Europe by divesting its U.S. portfolio when liquidity returns to the market.

Mr. Dyer said the group's proposals were "high-risk" and "based on large and uncertain disposals." He added that the plan ignored the need to strengthen the balance sheet.

"Betting the future of the group mainly on a hypothetical disposal of the U.S. business in two to three years, as the only alternative to the capital increase, is likely to put the company's future at material risk," he said, adding that the investor group's proposals would leave the company exposed to multiple-notch rating downgrades and a lack of liquidity.

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