National Australia Bank Ltd said in a filing on Thursday that it has reduced its holding in Australian casino operator Echo Entertainment Group Ltd.
The document submitted to the Australian Securities Exchange Ltd said the change took place on June 30. NAB reduced its stake from 67,949,430 fully paid ordinary shares to 57,550,144 fully paid ordinary shares, a reduction of 15.3 percent on its previous holding. NAB now has voting rights on 6.97 percent of Echo’s shares.
Echo currently has a casino monopoly in the state of New South Wales, where it operates The Star casino (pictured) in Sydney. Echo also operates properties in Queensland, namely the Treasury Casino & Hotel Brisbane and the Jupiters Hotel & Casino Gold Coast. Echo sold its Jupiters Townsville property in January to Colonial Leisure Group Pty Ltd for A$70 million (US$65.6 million).
Echo is facing increasing competitive challenges in its core markets. In November the New South Wales government said it had approved a plan by Crown Resorts Ltd, chaired by Macau casino investor James Packer, for a VIPs-only casino at its proposed A$1.3-billion hotel complex in the Sydney district of Barangaroo. It will be allowed to start operating in 2019.
In Queensland, two separate Sino-Australian projects are bidding to build multi-billion-dollar casino resorts.
In June Echo said it expects to report full year earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation within a range of A$430 million and A$435 million.
Echo – spun off from the racetrack betting business Tabcorp in 2011 – saw its ASX-listed stock close on Thursday up 0.32 percent at A$3.16 per share.
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"In the coming year we plan to actively tap into the overseas markets by identifying new business locations, keep on expanding our empire and also enhance our VIP services and facilities"
Chief executive of Macau gambling junket investor Tak Chun Group