Asian casino operator, Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited, has reportedly sold its entire stake in counterpart Crown Resorts Limited to a subordinate of American private equity firm The Blackstone Group Incorporated.

According to reports from Inside Asian Gaming and GGRAsia, the Hong Kong-listed firm used an official filing to detail that the sale of its 9.99% interest in the Australian operator behind casinos in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia is set to bring in approximately $360 million, which would represent an around 37.3% discount when compared to the about $574 million it paid for the substantial shareholding.

Initial interest:

Inside Asian Gaming reported that Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited purchased the 67,675,000 shares in Crown Resorts Limited from CPH Crown Holdings Proprietary Limited, which is an entity controlled by the Australian firm’s former Chairman, James Packer, at the end of last May and had eventually hoped to take its total stake up to 19.99%. However, this latter part of the acquisition purportedly soon faced opposition and prompted the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority to launch an official investigation into the buyer’s suitability.

Serious subjects:

Hong Kong-headquartered Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited is responsible for the Studio City Macau, City of Dreams Macau and Altira Macau integrated casino resorts in Macau and is also in the process of spending some $548 million so as to build its 500-room City of Dreams Mediterranean development in Cyprus. The government-backed inquiry was reportedly interested in discovering whether the firm’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, may have built his business with help from organized crime figures or if either company had utilized unscrupulous individuals as part of efforts to attract foreign gamblers.

Subsequent shift:

GGRAsia reported that Melco reacted to this examination by cancelling the second tranche of the Crown Resorts Limited acquisition plan and later declared that it now intends to concentrate on building up its ‘core assets’ in the wake of the financial downturn caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Associated assets:

For its part, The Blackstone Group reportedly already has substantial interests in the casino sector including stakes in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Bellagio Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Las Vegas and MGM Grand Las Vegas properties. The New York-based investments giant moreover purportedly once controlled American hotel operator Hilton Worldwide Holdings Incorporated but sold off its remaining share in 2018.