In late August both Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group and Sydney-based Westfield Group divulged they had taken out significant stakes in Liberty International plc, which owns more than 12 million square feet of retail space in the United Kingdom. The question now is whether they are pursuing a takeover of the company. And, if so, are they competitors or joint bidders?

The saga began quietly on Aug. 19 when Simon disclosed it had built up a 3.45 percent stake in Liberty International. Then, four days later, Westfield Group followed with a filing disclosing it had built a 2.96 percent stake in the company. A week later, Simon said it had raised its stake to 4.22 percent. Neither firm is saying much on the brewing battle.

According to at least one observer, Jason Lail, senior real estate research analyst with Charlottesville, Va.-based SNL Financial, Simon and Westfield are more likely to join forces. “Simon is definitely looking to spend some money and maybe they are getting those assets at a discount compared to what they would pay a year or two ago,” he says.