Westfield, the world's largest shopping centre developer, is looking to raise A$2.9bn (£1.3bn) in a new share placement.

The listed Australian developer said it was raising the funds to pay off group debt and to ‘position the group for further acquisitions.’

The group said it would issue 276m shares at $10.50 (£4.69) a share – a discount to the current trading price of $12.20 (£5.45) a share.

Westfield said that following the placement its gearing would reduce by 4% to a loan-to-value covenant of around 36%.

Though its global shopping centres are well let – 99.5% in Australia, 92.6% in the US, 98.9% in the UK and 99.5% in New Zealand – Westfield did see its occupancy levels hit by the recession.

In the US, its portfolio suffered a 6.8% fall in retail sales and a 1.5% drop in the amount of space leased over the last year at 30 December 2008, while in the UK let space fell by 0.7% and in New Zealand by 1.2%

However, in Australia, its portfolio saw retail sales rise by 3.6% for the year to 30 December compared to last year - including 1.6% in the last quarter of 2008.

Last week the group warned of a A$3bn (£1.34) fall in the carrying value of its shopping centres.