Crown Resorts Stock Soars Following Blackstone Latest Bid

Posted on: November 19, 2021, 07:38h. 

Last updated on: November 19, 2021, 12:50h.

Blackstone Group is leaving no stone unturned in its crusade to purchase Aussie casino giant Crown Resorts.

Blackstone Crown Resorts Australia casino
Blackstone Group billionaire founder Stephen Schwarzman, seen above at a recent press conference. He wants to gamble on Crown Resorts, an Australian casino business that is in a myriad of regulatory trouble Down Under. His firm’s latest bid is roughly $6.2 billion for the entire portfolio. (Image: AP)

The private equity behemoth remains bullish on the global gaming industry in the wake of COVID-19. The firm, led by billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, is refusing to fold on its dreams of fully controlling Crown.

Blackstone, currently Crown’s second-largest shareholder with a 9.99 percent stake, this week made its third play for the Crown Melbourne, Crown Perth, and Crown Sydney owner. The latest proposal values the Crown empire at AU$8.5 billion (US$6.2 billion). Blackstone is offering AU$12.50 per share in the all-cash presentation.

The offer is significantly higher than where Crown shares were trading on the Australian Securities Exchange prior to the offer. Crown closed yesterday at AU$9.88, meaning Blackstone is offering a more than 26.5 percent premium.

Crown shares naturally skyrocketed on the Blackstone tender. The stock finished up 16.5 percent to AU$11.54 on Friday trading Down Under.

Bid Conditional Upon Suitability

In a securities filing, Crown Resorts confirmed receipt of the Blackstone offer.

The company says its board has not yet formed a view on the merits of the proposal, but will soon assess its details. Crown also revealed that it has appointed UBS and Gresham Partners as its financial advisors on the matter.

Blackstone says it’s $6.2 billion comes with the critical stipulation that Crown Resorts finds suitability recommendations from gaming regulators in Victoria, New South Wales (NSW), and Western Australia. Each of the three states have recently conducted inquiries into the fitness of Crown Resorts.

Royal commissions in Victoria and NSW found Crown unsuitable to hold gaming licenses. That’s based on allegations of years of failing to prevent their casinos from being used as money laundering mats. Investigators also found Crown’s billionaire founder and former chairman and CEO James Packer had unjust power over the group as a whole.

While the NSW inquiry resulted in Crown not being issued a casino license for its newly opened Crown Sydney resort and luxury residential complex, regulators in Victoria allowed the company to retain its gaming privileges. However, Crown must greatly clean up its act over the next two years and be subject to state-employed overseers.

Crown is working to meet numerous mandates in NSW in hopes of one day receiving a gaming concession to open its Crown Sydney casino. A verdict in the Western Australia suitability probe regarding Crown Perth is expected in the coming month.

Blackstone Buying and Selling

No private equity firm in the world has been as active in the gaming space as Blackstone amid the pandemic.

In July, the firm announced that it was acquiring Aria Resort and Casino and its adjourning non-gaming property Vdara on the Las Vegas Strip for nearly $3.9 billion. Two months later, Blackstone said it was selling the operational rights of Aria neighbor Cosmopolitan to MGM Resorts for $1.6 billion.

On the Strip, Blackstone additionally owns the real estate assets of Bellagio, MGM Grand, and Mandalay Bay. MGM runs the casino and hotel operations of each.

Blackstone acquired its nearly 10 percent ownership position in Crown from Melco Resorts in April of 2020 at AU$8.15 per share. Melco, one of the six casino operators in Macau, could be a likely suitor to operate the Crown casinos. That’s should Blackstone emerge as the landowner of the three resort properties.