Crown Resorts could be closer to having a new owner. After Blackstone improved its previous offer to purchase the Australian casino operator, Crown Resorts has agreed to join takeover negotiations with the US-based investment firm. Blackstone is ready to put US$6.46 billion up for the purchase.
Crown Close to Changing Hands
Blackstone’s latest bid came after multiple attempts to persuade Crown’s board to accept an offer. This deal showed global investors’ interest in Australian assets, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The market has been the most active in mergers and acquisitions for the past year.
Since May, Crown has been the focus of bidding wars between Blackstone and local casino operator Star Entertainment Group. Star withdrew interest in July after Australian authorities claimed Crown could lose its gambling license due to an investigation into money-laundering allegations.
Star expressed interest to revive its AU$12-billion ($8.7 billion) merger offer after the investigation was closed. It has confirmed that it is still interested; however, it has to submit a bid for Crown shareholders to take it seriously.
Blackstone will continue its due diligence over the next few days. The Australian company stated that if it makes a binding offer of at least AU$13.10 ($9.54) per share, then the board will accept the bid unanimously.
Provided no outside offer arrives, Crown and Blackstone could sign a purchase agreement before the end of the month. Crown shares rose as high as 9% today after the announcement.
Crown’s board said in a statement about the pending offer, “It is the Crown Board’s current unanimous intention to recommend that shareholders vote in favor of the proposal in the absence of a superior proposal and subject to an Independent Expert concluding (and continuing to conclude) that the proposed transaction is in the best interests of Crown shareholders.”
Blackstone Continues to Conquer the Casino Space
Blackstone is making its latest move in the casino sector. In 2019, the private equity investor agreed to purchase the real estate assets in Las Vegas of Bellagio Hotel Casino from MGM Resorts International for $4.25 billion.
Blackstone, which holds 9.99% of Crown shares, sought to buy the entire company in response to Australian regulators ruling last year that Crown wasn’t fit to run the new Sydney Casino Resort. This decision was made due to concerns over money laundering and poor corporate governance. The $2.2-billion property opened, but without a casino.
Crown founder and former boss James Packer, who owned more than one-third of the shares in the company, quit Crown’s board in 2018 due to failing mental health. A government-commissioned inquiry later determined that he must separate himself further from company operations. He is reportedly in the process of reducing his stake to around 6.6%, but the Blackstone sale could end the sale and give him a windfall at the same time.