Australian shopping centre giant Westfield remained tight lipped over its purchase of a 3% stake in Liberty International at its half-year results last night.

Managing director Peter Lowy declined to comment on Westfield’s intentions in buying the stake when asked about it in a post-results conference call.

Westfield revealed the stake after Simon Property Group, the US shopping centre REIT and the largest US public property company, disclosed it had a 3.4% stake in Liberty last Friday.

Short-term bid unlikely

Yesterday it disclosed it had upped its stake to 4.2%, and it is thought that it has bought more shares since then, and now has a holding of around 4.9%.

The actions of the two companies has sparked speculation that a bid is likely to emerge for Liberty, although this is considered unlikely in the short term. JP Morgan analyst Harm Meijer said that a bid could emerge of between 1,150p and 1,200p.

Westfield shares dropped 3% to A$16.10 after results which reflected the difficulty in the Australian, US and UK property markets in which it operates. Net profits fell 35% to A$1.3bn.