Blackstone buys Centro's U.S. property assets for $9.4 billion

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Private equity firm Blackstone Group LP has acquired 588 U.S. shopping mall assets from Australia's debt-laden property group Centro Properties for $9.4 billion in one of the biggest global property deals since the credit crisis.

Centro confirmed on Tuesday it had agreed to sell its U.S. assets to Blackstone as part of a major restructure, marking Blackstone's first major entry into U.S. retail real estate.

Blackstone beat rival bidders including Morgan Stanley Real Estate which had teamed up with Starwood Capital Group as well as New York-based NRDC, a source familiar with the transaction told Reuters on Monday.

Centro did not name the other bidders on Tuesday but said it had received a number of bids for the assets.

Blackstone acquired the assets for $9.4 billion, including debt. The U.S. assets were acquired at a 1.3 percent discount to December 31 book values, Centro said.

The total equity proceeds going to Centro and its various managed funds under the deal is $1.38 billion with proceeds to repay debt.

The deal is expected to close mid-2011.

Centro also announced on Tuesday it had reached a debt restructure agreement with lenders and was in talks on establishing a listed Australian retail property portfolio as part of a wider restructure.

Centro's stapled securities were trading 10 percent higher at 16.5 cents by early afternoon.

(Reporting by Michael Smith; Editing by Ed Davies)