* Blackstone raises proposal about 5% after initial due
* Shares of casino operator Crown Resorts jump as much as 9%
* Casino peer Star Entertainment still open to a deal with
SYDNEY, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Australia's biggest casino
operator, Crown Resorts Ltd, said on Thursday its board
was likely to back an improved A$8.87 billion ($6.46 billion)
buyout proposal from U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Inc
unless a higher offer emerged.
Crown received a fourth non-binding offer of A$13.10 a
share, having dismissed Blackstone's previous bid of A$12.50 as
not "compelling https://www.reuters.com/business/australias-crown-says-blackstones-62-bln-buyout-offer-not-compelling-2021-12-01/#:~:text=N)%20%246.2%20billion%20buyout%20offer,inquiries%20for%20a%20revised%20proposal
The revised offer puts Blackstone in the box seat to win
control of Crown, which has faced devastating misconduct
in every state it operates in, while protracted COVID-19
lockdown measures has caused a drop in visitors.
A person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters
the near 5% price rise agreed after initial due diligence was
supported by major investors, including founder James Packer,
who collectively own around 60% of Crown stock.
There are hopes of signing a deal by January-end, said the
person, who was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter
and so declined to be identified.
Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH), a vehicle owned by Packer
with a 37% stake in Crown, said it was encouraged by the
announcement of the proposal and awaited further developments.
"CPH will review all documents released to the market by
Crown Resorts relating to a binding control transaction prior to
making a decision regarding its shareholding," it said.
Investment manager Perpetual, Crown's third-largest
shareholder with a 9.2% stake, said it was in favour of the
revised proposal in the absence of a better offer.
Blackstone, which owns 9.9%, declined to comment.
The deal, which requires approval from casino regulators in
three Australian states and a shareholder vote, could be
completed by the end of June, said a second person familiar with
Crown shares jumped as much as 9% to A$12.68 on Thursday
morning, their highest price since June 4, but still well below
Blackstone's offer indicating market doubt about a rival bid.
Following the latest offer, the casino operator said https://events.miraqle.com/DownloadFile.axd?file=/Report/ComNews/20220113/02475175.pdf
it will engage with Blackstone on a non-exclusive basis and
give the investment manager the opportunity to finalise due
Crown said if Blackstone makes a binding offer of at least
A$13.10 per share and if there are no superior offers, its board
intends to recommend shareholders vote in favour of the
"It is likely that a deal will get done," said Steve
Johnson, chief investment officer at Forager Funds Management,
which owns Crown shares.
"The increase in offer price is a welcome step in the right
direction and we are supportive of the board continuing a push
for an appropriate firm offer for shareholders," he said.
After an inquiry in July last year urged Crown be stripped
of its gambling licence for its main Melbourne resort https://www.reuters.com/business/australia-inquiry-urged-strip-crown-resorts-licence-main-casino-2021-07-20,
Australia's second-biggest casino operator Star Entertainment
Group Ltd withdrew https://www.reuters.com/business/australias-star-entertainment-abandons-66-bln-bid-crown-resorts-2021-07-22/#:~:text=July%2023%20(Reuters)%20-%20Australian,licence%2C%20sending%20its%20shares%20lower
a A$9 billion mostly scrip buyout proposal.
Star, subject to a separate regulatory inquiry over its
actions to counter money laundering, has left open the
possibility of re-entering the fray. In an emailed response to
Reuters on Thursday, it reiterated it "remains open to exploring
potential value enhancing opportunities with Crown".
Crown remains open to talks with Star and expects its peer
to have more room to manoeuvre after the regulatory inquiry
wraps up, said a third person familiar with the matter.
Public hearings on Star are due to begin in March.
($1 = 1.3729 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Scott Murdoch and Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru;
Additional reporting by Savyata Mishra and Harshita Swaminathan
in Bengaluru; Writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Karishma Singh
and Christopher Cushing)