Posted on: March 29, 2022, 08:13h.
Last updated on: March 29, 2022, 08:14h.
The Blackstone Group’s AU$8.9 billion (US$6.6 billion) takeover of Australian casino firm Crown Resorts passed its first major regulatory hurdle this week.
Crown Resorts revealed today through a regulatory filing made with the Australian Securities Exchange that the $6.6 billion agreement has received written confirmation from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) expressing no objections to the proposed scheme.
[Crown and Blackstone have] received written confirmation from the Foreign Investment Review Board that the Commonwealth Government has no objection to Blackstone’s proposed acquisition of Crown by way of the proposed Scheme,” the ASX filing said.
FIRB is an Australian governmental agency that reviews major business plans involving foreign persons or companies. FIRB is an independent unit but its operations are assisted by the Treasury Ministry.
While the board’s functions are advisory only — meaning it cannot singlehandedly block a business deal involving a foreign entity — its recommendations carry heavy weight with other approving agencies.
More Approvals Needed
FIRB blessing Blackstone Group’s acquisition of Crown Resorts should improve the odds of the two entities completing their terms with few headaches. Crown said in its release that the scheme is still subject to numerous other conditions, including approval from gaming regulators and Crown shareholders.
Gaming authorities are expected to welcome the Blackstone takeover. Crown’s reputation has been damaged greatly over the past several years for a myriad of issues such as being accused of promoting gambling unlawfully in China.
Crown has since been deemed unsuitable to hold gaming licenses in each of the three Australian states where it does business — New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia.
Crown was allowed to retain its casino permits in Victoria and Western Australia where it owns and operates Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth.
NSW officials opted to halt issuing Crown its gaming concession for its newly opened Crown Sydney. Crown was given time to satisfy a glut of concerns raised in the NSW inquiry. The VIP casino at Crown Sydney hopes to finally open later this year — nearly two years after the integrated resort opened as a non-gaming destination in December of 2020.
No Stone Unturned
Blackstone, the US-based private equity behemoth, hopes to expand its gaming portfolio to Australia. The company has been extremely bullish on gaming amid the pandemic.
Just prior to COVID-19, Blackstone agreed to acquire the Bellagio from MGM Resorts for $4.25 billion. Blackstone now leases back the operations of the Las Vegas Strip headliner to MGM.
In January of 2020, as the coronavirus was becoming a global concern, Blackstone nonetheless went through with acquiring 49.9% of Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand Las Vegas from MGM. Again, MGM Resorts pays Blackstone rent for its real estate ownership positions in the properties.
Not done yet with gaming, Blackstone struck yet another sale-leaseback scheme with MGM last July to acquire Aria and Vdara for $3.89 billion.
After establishing a considerable presence on the Las Vegas Strip, Blackstone focused on expanding Down Under. The scheme being worked through with Crown didn’t go exactly as Blackstone planned, as the company’s original takeover offer for the troubled casino operator was for AU$11.85 per share. The agreed-to $6.6 billion acquisition represents an offer of AU$13.10 per share — a nearly 11% premium.