Westfield plunged to an A$925m (£473m) pre-tax loss after writing down the value of its properties by A$2.5bn.

Britain was by some way the group's worst-performing region, with operating income falling by 4.1%, compared with a 0.6% fall in the US. That was offset, however, by the Australian and New Zealand operations, which grew operating income by 6.2%.

Westfield described the UK market as "challenging" but reported robust growth at Westfield London, where sales rose by 4.8% despite the impact of the recession on British retailing. The company plans to open a second major development in East London – Westfield East – next to the site of the Olympic park in Stratford.

The company said its operating profits actually increased by 12% to A$1bn, although it plans to cut its dividend from August 2010 to strengthen its balance sheet. This should save the company as much as A$500m a year, which will be used to fuel investments.

The Independent