Shopping centre giant Westfield has delayed plans to sell more than A$700m (£309m) of property in the wake of the credit crunch.

The world's biggest owner and manager of shopping centres will not sell the remaining third of its £ 530m UK fund and has pulled two New Zealand centres from the market.

The £530m fund was set up in the summer to own 25% interests in four of Westfield’s UK shopping centres with a combined value of £2.1bn.

The Westfield UK Shopping Centre Fund owns stakes in the Westfield-branded centres in Merry Hill, Belfast, Tunbridge Wells and Derby. Westfield secured two investors for two-thirds of the units, but will now wait to sell the remaining third.

Westfield is believed to have discussed selling the Auckland centres to LaSalle Investment Management and Prupim’s Asia Property Fund, which in August paid A$738m (£325m) for a half-share in Westfield's Doncaster project in Melbourne.

Low interest rates

In an interview with The Australian newspaper Westfield managing director Steven Lowy said rising interest rates in New Zealand and the difficulty potential buyers faced in getting credit had prompted the decision to put the sale of the Auckland centres on hold.

‘It's probably not the best time to sell something and, given that we're not a forced seller, we decided we will take it off the market and deal with it at another time,’ he said.

‘We haven't seen retailer bankruptcy blow out or our vacancies blow out. We've seen a slowing in growth of retail sales since the sub-prime issues came about,’ he added.

‘This is not the first credit crunch, it's not the first volatile market environment that we've been in, and we're in business for the longer term.’