Herald Sun

Path opens on Packer’s Crown exit

US suitor only waiting on states

- LACHLAN MOFFET GRAY

JAMES Packer’s third attempt in less than three years to sell Crown Resorts could be done and dusted by the end of the year after US private equity suitor Blackstone revised its $8bn buyout offer.

The offer is, however, conditiona­l on the casino giant emerging relatively unscathed from two royal commission­s.

In a statement to the ASX on Tuesday, Crown Resorts said the $11.85 per share scheme of arrangemen­t still contained a stipulatio­n that Blackstone, which owns 10 per cent of Crown, would receive approval from regulators in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia to fully buy out the company.

Crown shares closed down 2c at $12.07 on Tuesday.

The offer no longer contained the provision that Blackstone also be deemed a suitable person as licensee.

Blackstone said the offer hinges only on gaining regulatory approval for the takeover, with a stipulatio­n that it can withdraw its bid if state regulators threaten or make “material adverse change” to Crown’s casino licences before the second court hearing of the takeover process.

A second court hearing date is not set as Crown is yet to accept the takeover offer, but Blackstone has said it expects to receive the necessary regulatory approvals to take over Crown in the “third quarter” of the year, clearing the way for a deal to take place sooner than if it had to wait for regulatory confirmati­on that it was a suitable person as a licensee.

It puts pressure on Crown to reach a determinat­ion on the offer sooner, but it also means Blackstone could take on more regulatory risk if the parties lock in a deal before state government­s indicate which recommenda­tions of the royal commission­s and inquiries they take up.

The royal commission­s into Crown in Victoria and WA are to report in August and November respective­ly.

The NSW Independen­t Liquor and Gaming Authority, which found Crown not suitable to operate its Sydney casino in Barangaroo, has said Crown could be permitted to open its Barangaroo casino before the end of the year, subject to certain conditions.

But until such time as a second court hearing is set Blackstone can walk away from the deal if “Crown’s Vic or WA casino licences is, or is threatened to be, cancelled, suspended or surrendere­d” before that time, or if it looks like its “NSW licence is not to be granted.”

This is also the case if any conditions imposed on Crown by regulators “when combined, constitute a material adverse change” or have “a financial impact on Crown of greater than an agreed threshold”.

Mr Packer, who owns 37 per cent of Crown Resorts, indicated he is open to the sale and has retained Moelis Australia as an adviser.

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