Blackstone Bids for Centro Properties Group Assets

The Blackstone Group has entered a preliminary bid for the asset portfolio of Australian shopping center owner Centro Properties Group, Reuters reported, citing an article in the Wall Street Journal. The firm is specifically interested in Centro’s 600 U.S. properties, Reuters said. Centro manages an $18.8 billion portfolio of shopping malls in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. The company is mired in debt, and is selling the assets to put itself on stronger financial footing.

(Reuters) – Private equity company Blackstone Group has joined the bidding for Australian shopping-center owner Centro Properties Group’s asset portfolio, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Blackstone made a preliminary offer by Centro’s Dec. 17 deal deadline and is primarily interested in Centro’s 600 U.S. properties, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Centro manages an A$18.6 billion ($18.8 billion) portfolio of shopping malls in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but has put up assets for sale to cut its A$18.4 billion in debt. About A$11.5 billion of its debt needs refinancing by the end of Dec. 2011.

Blackstone couldn’t immediately be reached for comment while a Centro spokeswoman in Melbourne declined to comment.

The Australian company valued its U.S. portfolio at $9.5 billion at the end of its fiscal year on June 30, the WSJ reported.

Centro last week said it received several bids for properties in the U.S. and Australia. The company said its evaluation of the bids would take time because of the complexity of the deal process.

Other buyers interested in some or all of Centro’s assets were said to be Westfield , Lend Lease’s Australian Prime Property Fund, CFS Retail Trust, Queensland Investment Corp and the Singapore Government Investment Corp, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Local media have previously reported Centro received $13.5 billion worth of indicative bids for its shopping malls. Blackstone as well as other buyout firms including NRDC Equity Partners, Cerberus Capital Management , and Apollo had also indicated interest, the Australian Financial Review reported on Dec. 2. (Additional reporting by Michael Smith in SYDNEY) (Reporting by Elinor Comlay; editing by Carol Bishopric and Balazs Koranyi)