Despite some retailers reporting a drop in half year sales, Westfield Group has announced an Australian International Financial Reporting Standards (AIFRS) net profit for the year of $1.53 billion, up to 37.6 per cent on prior year.

According to the company, the result was driven by net property income increasing 7 per cent during the year, a 100 per cent increase in the group’s property management income and 92 per cent increase in project income.

“2011 was significant year for the group. We continued to implement our strategy of increasing return on equity with joint venturing of the 1.75 billion pounds Stratford City and sale of Cairns and Nottingham,” Co-CEOs Peter Lowy and Steven Lowy said.

“Importantly, we expanded our business platform into strategic new markets with our entry into Brazil as well as our investment into major iconic retail development projects in Milan and at the World Trade Centre in New York.”

For the year, net property income in local currency term was up 8 per cent in Australia/New Zealand, up 1 per cent in the United States and up 36 per cent in the United Kingdom.

“Our operating performance saw income growth and comparable specialty sales growth in each of our regions,” Steven Lowy said.

“Particularly pleasing was the record volume of leasing activity during the year, with over 5,100 leases agreed covering over 960,000 square metres of retail space. This highlights the retailer demand for our high quality portfolio globally.”

The portfolio at 31 December was 97.5 per cent leased, with the United States portfolio at 93.1 per cent, the United Kingdom at 99 per cent and Australia/New Zealand remaining over 99.5 per cent.

In Australia comparable specialty retail sales for the 12 months were up 1.5 per cent and 1.9 per cent in New Zealand, with the strongest performance in both Australia and New Zealand being in the December quarter – up 2 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile, in the United States, comparable specialty retail sales for the 12 months were up 7.1 per cent, with sales in the December quarter up 9.8 per cent. At Westfield London, sales for the year were over 960 million pounds, up 10.8 per cent.

Currently, the group has $2.4 billion of projects under construction including its $760 million Fountain Gate project in Australia and UTC in San Diego. The group expects to commence between $1.25 billion and $1.5 billion of new developments in both 2012 and 2013.

Additionally, Westfield has invested $4.7 billion into a joint venture with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), which involves 12 US malls. The transaction increases the number of joint venture centres in the US to 19.

The company also announced it has sold interest in three non-core UK shopping centres – Belfast (33 per cent), Guildford (50 per cent) and Tunbridge Wells (33 per cent) – for $240 million.

“These assets were initially purchased in 2000, at the time of our initial entry into the UK. Since that time we have refocused our business into iconic assets such as Westfield London and Strathford City and we continue to examine new growth opportunities in the UK. Along with the recent sale of Notttingham, these assets divested today became non-core to our UK portfolio,” Steven Lowy said.