Crown shareholders approve Blackstone deal; regulatory nods may pose delay

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts adorns a fence surrounding the Crown Perth hotel and casino complex in Western Australia

By Harish Sridharan and Indranil Sarkar

(Reuters) – Crown Resorts Ltd’s shareholders approved a $6.3 billion buyout by Blackstone Inc on Friday, but the deal faces further delays as it awaits nods from the regulators of states where the troubled casino operator ran its businesses.

Crown’s Chairman Ziggy Switkowski said the company would delay a conclusive Federal Court hearing – earlier scheduled for next week – to week starting June 6, as it was unsure of securing regulatory assent before that.

In the scheme meeting, 92.1% Crown shareholders voted in favour of the deal, while 99.9% of the votes were in approval.

The success of the deal with the U.S. private equity giant could give billionaire James Packer an out from the beleaguered Australian casino firm hit by scandals and regulatory setbacks and draw the curtain on one of Australia’s most storied business dynasties.

Packer, Crown’s biggest shareholder and founder, will cash in his chips, worth about A$3.3 billion ($2.32 billion), a decade and a half after he created the company.

The ball is now in the court of gambling regulators in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, who have all found Crown unfit to hold gaming licenses at different times.

“Crown will continue to assist Blackstone as it works towards obtaining the required gaming regulatory approvals,” the firm said in a statement.

The licence for Crown’s flagship A$2.2 billion casino skyscraper in Sydney remains suspended, more than a year after it was due to open, and its Melbourne casino has been operating with a government-appointed supervisor since last year.

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Earlier in the day, advisory firm Grant Samuel, appointed as an independent expert by Crown, said that the scheme consideration was fair “even if none of the contingent liabilities arise.”

Crown’s stock ended marginally higher, while the benchmark index advanced over 1%.

($1 = 1.4237 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Harish Sridharan and Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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