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Australia's Woolworths to spin off $1.4 bln property group

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MELBOURNE, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Australia's top supermarket operator Woolworths Ltd said on Friday it plans to spin off 69 shopping centres into a new property group valued at A$1.4 billion ($1.4 billion), and will raise up to A$506 million to partly fund the deal.

Woolworths said the move would reduce the amount of property held on its balance sheet and help it focus on its core retail business.

The plans have been widely reported.

Woolworths said in a statement it would create the SCA Property Group, a real estate investment trust, via a distribution to Woolworths shareholders and a related offer to investors.

The financial impact was not expected to be material given the relatively small size of the property portfolio compared with Woolworths' total business, it said.

The company operates brands including discount retailer Big W, liquor chain Dan Murphy's and Masters Home Improvement in addition to its Woolworths supermarket chain which competes with Wesfarmers Ltd's Coles.

Woolworths said SCA Property Group is undertaking a public offer of 337.3 million stapled units to raise between $425 million and $506 million.

Woolworths shareholders will get one stapled unit in SCA Property Group for every five Woolworths shares that they hold on Nov. 30.

(Reporting by Victoria Thieberger; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

((victoria.thieberger@thomsonreuters.com)(+61 3 9286 1421)(Reuters Messaging: victoria.thieberger.reuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: AUSTRALIA WOOLWORTHS/