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Crown Resorts has agreed to enter into exclusive takeover talks with Blackstone Group after the US private equity group sweetened its bid to buy the under-pressure Australian gaming company for about A$8.9bn (US$6.5bn). 

The revised offer values Crown at A$13.10 per share, up by A$0.60 per share or about A$1bn in additional cash from a prior proposal Blackstone made to the casino business, backed by Australian billionaire James Packer, in November.

The latest bid comes after the gaming company’s board last year rebuffed several offers from the US buyout group, which already owns 9.99 per cent of Crown.

Crown has, since May, been at the centre of a bidding war between Blackstone and smaller casino rival Star Entertainment, which has pursued a merger.

Star withdrew its interest in July when Australian authorities said Crown could potentially lose its gambling licence following an investigation into money laundering accusations. That threat was lifted in September after the investigation ended and Sydney-based Star has continued to express interest in reviving its A$12bn merger plan.

Blackstone will be completing its due diligence in the coming days and if it decides to make a binding offer with no less than A$13.10 per share, the bid will be unanimously accepted by Crown’s board, the Australian company said in a statement.

The deal highlights Blackstone’s continued interest in owning casinos as the private equity investor agreed in 2019 to acquire from MGM the real estate assets of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $4.25bn

Blackstone first approached Crown after Australian regulators ruled in early 2021 that the gaming company was not fit to operate a new A$2.2bn casino resort in Sydney because of concerns about money laundering and poor corporate governance.

The deal also highlights the continued interest by global investors in seizing Australian assets despite the pandemic.

The Australian market has been one of the most active for deals over the past year driven by cheap finance and private capital targeting listed assets ranging from telecoms to airports to the funds themselves.

Source : https://www.ft.com/content/3fec566f-d699-4e2c-8f27-95200157ec0d

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