Department stores declining in US: Lowy

Department stores are in decline in the United States, shopping centre magnate Frank Lowy says, and his global Westfield chain is responding by shrinking their presence in many locations.

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Westfield Corporation has being buying back department store space in the US and replacing them with new and more “productive” retailers, the global retail giant’s chairman told shareholders in Sydney.

Mr Lowy, speaking at Westfield’s annual general meeting in Sydney, said the decline in US department stores has been happening since the mid-1980s.

“It is now generally accepted that retailers in the US, including the department stores, need less physical stores to service the markets in which they operate,” Mr Lowy said.

“Recognising this trend, in recent years we have bought back department store space and repurposed that space to introduce new and more productive retailers – retailers who have greater capacity to attract shoppers to our centres.”

Mr Lowy said it was the group’s expectation that this trend will continue in future years.

This comes at a time when department store giants Myer and David Jones are up against stiffer competition in Australia as online shopping grows and more overseas speciality retailers, including H&M, Sephora and Zara, open local stores.

Westfield, which is listed on the ASX and owns shopping centres in the US, UK and Europe, has been in the US since 1977.

Westfield shopping centres in Australia are owned by Scentre Group following a spin-off from Westfield Corporation in 2014.

Mr Lowy said department stores were closing in some locations while opening at Westfield’s flagship centres (centres with higher rent, higher occupancy rates and strong sales).

He said the US has too much retail space and this has put pressure on shopping centres which was why Westfield, since 2010, has been focusing on its flagship centres, which now represent 82 per cent of the group’s portfolio.

Nordstrom department store opened at the Century City centre in Los Angeles and another at in San Diego, while Bloomingdales opened a new store at Valley Fair in Silicon Valley.

France’s biggest department store, Galleries Lafayette, will open their first store in Italy at Westfield’s new centre in Milan, and John Lewis will have a new store at Westfield London.

Co-chief executive Steven Lowy said the group recently acquired a small Broadway production company to “create even better experiences in our centres.”

He said businesses that were never regarded as retailers were now opening stores in their centres, including car makers Ford, Citroen and Tesla.

SEEK to privatise China subsidiary Zhaopin

Job search group SEEK has finalised moves to privatise its successful Chinese jobs portal Zhaopin and delist it from the New York Stock Exchange.

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SEEK will partner with two China-focused private equity firms Hillhouse Capital Management and FountainVest Partners to acquire all outstanding shares of Zhaopin, which was floated on the NYSE in mid-2014.

The website is the largest and most popular Chinese jobs portal, with about 36.9 million job postings in the year to June, 2016.

Under the delisting, Seek and its private equity partners will by the outstanding Zhaophin shares for $US18.20 ($A24.14) in cash per American depositary share, or $US9.10 ($A12.07) per ordinary share.

The deal values Zhaopin at $US1.01 billion ($A1.34 billion).

SEEK, which currently owns 61.2 per cent of shares in Zhaopin, and 74.5 per cent of voting power, will retain its stake in the privatised business.

The offer price represents a 14.2 per cent premium to the closing price of the Zhaopin American Depositary Share on February 16, when the group first announced discussions around the potential deal.

The ADS last traded at $US17.74 on the NYSE on Thursday.

The agreement comes about 15 months after Zhaopin first received a proposal from a buyer group comprising of CDH V Management Company and Shanghai Goliath Investment Management.

A second proposal was received in May 2016 from a consortium comprising executives from Zhaopin and Sequoia China Investment Management.

The transaction is expected to be completed in the second half of 2017, SEEK said in a statement to the ASX on Friday.

At 1035 AEST, SEEK shares were up 1.2 per cent at $16.13 each.

Titans lose Proctor for Raiders NRL clash

The Gold Coast have been dealt a massive blow on the eve of their NRL game against Canberra, with co-captain Kevin Proctor ruled out with a hamstring injury.

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Proctor was injured in last Sunday’s 28-22 loss to the Warriors, however it’s understood it had a slow onset, and he was officially ruled out on Friday night.

At this stage Titans medical officials are unsure on a return date.

In a further blow to the injury-plagued Titans, he will be joined on the sidelines at Cbus Super Stadium by Joe Greenwood, who was expected to be Proctor’s starting replacement.

Greenwood has failed to overcome a concussion he sustained in last Sunday’s loss to the Warriors, with the club erring on the side of caution – it was his second head knock in a month.

“We decided that he does need a rest and that’s best for him,” Titans coach Neil Henry said of Greenwood.

“He has had a couple of head knocks within a short period so we felt it was best, and so did the medical team, that he has a week off with some modified training.”

It means Chris Grevsmuhl will be elevated to the starting side just a week after returning to the NRL.

But it will be the loss of Proctor the Titans will feel most.

Already without key players Jarryd Hayne, Nathan Peats and Tyrone Roberts, Proctor has averaged 26 tackles a match this year and has given much-needed stability on the right edge.

After making the finals for the first time in six seasons last year, the Titans have crashed to win just once in five rounds in 2017.

A further defeat on Saturday would leave them having to become the first team since Canterbury in 2013 to recover from a one and five start to make the finals.

They also enter Saturday’s game wary of a Canberra forward pack that will be desperate to take their team to back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

“Some of their forwards are the most dominant forwards in the game and we’re going to have to work up the middle,” Titans captain Ryan James said.

“Even their back rowers are huge and their bench is huge, so we’re going to have to do a good job on them.”

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Titans have won six of their last nine at Robina.

* Canberra are looking to avoid losing four consecutive away matches for the first time since 2014.

* Ash Taylor leads the NRL with most try assists (10) for 2017.