Casino investor Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd has sold its 9.99-percent stake in Australian gaming operator Crown Resorts Ltd to an entity “owned or managed” by U.S.-based asset management firm The Blackstone Group Inc. The sale was at a 37.3-percent discount compared to the price Melco Resorts paid in May last year.
In a Wednesday filing to the Australian Securities Exchange, Crown Resorts said it had been informed that an entity linked to The Blackstone Group had acquired 67,675,000 Crown Resorts shares from Melco Resorts – representing the latter’s entire 9.99-percent stake – for AUD8.15 (US$5.31) per share. The sale amounted to nearly AUD551.6 million in aggregate.
Melco Resorts confirmed in its own filing the sale of the Crown Resorts shares to Midnight Acacia Holdings Pte Ltd, a Blackstone Real Estate Asia entity owned by certain funds linked to The Blackstone Group. As a result of the transaction, Melco Resorts’ unit “has ceased to be a shareholder” of Crown Resorts, it stated.
In May last year, Melco Resorts said it was paying AUD13.00 per Crown Resorts share to CPH Crown Holdings Pty Ltd. The latter company – controlled by Australian businessman James Packer – was a major shareholder in Crown Resorts. The acquisition price per share represented an aggregate investment of nearly AUD879.8 million for the 9.99-percent stake in Crown Resorts.
The management of Melco Resorts had already flagged earlier this year that the sale of the Crown Resorts stake was a “potential source of liquidity” in case Melco Resorts had additional “capital needs”.
When it first announced the deal, Melco Resorts was to acquire a 19.9-percent stake in Crown Resorts, in a deal valued AUD1.76 billion. But in February this year, Melco Resorts said it had decided not to pursue the purchase of the second tranche of shares in the Australian company because of the “impact of the coronavirus epidemic”.
The latest announcement comes amid an inquiry into Crown Resort’s suitability to hold a gaming licence in New South Wales, Australia. The company is currently developing a casino complex at Barangaroo in Sydney, New South Wales.
The New South Wales gaming regulator had launched a public inquiry into the Melco Resorts deal, as well as to probe whether Crown Resorts breached the terms of its gaming licence for its Barangaroo project. The inquiry has been temporarily halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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