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Monday, July 9, 2012

Crown Limited puts 25pc limit on Echo Entertainment stake; Casino News Media...

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Crown Limited puts 25pc limit on Echo Entertainment stake...

The jockeying for position by various stakeholders in casinos operator Echo Entertainment is continuing, with James Packer's Crown Ltd seeking regulatory approval to lift its stake in Echo to 25 per cent.

Casinos operator Crown has added the 25 per cent limit to its application to the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and the Queensland government for an increase of its Echo stake to above 10 per cent.

Crown already holds a stake in Echo of 10 per cent.

Echo's constitution restricts a person's voting power to a maximum of 10 per cent unless the written consent of the regulator in NSW and the relevant Queensland minister is obtained.

Crown said on Wednesday that the regulators had accepted the new condition to its application but were yet to decide on whether Crown could exceed the 10 per cent ownership level.

'If Crown is eventually granted approval to increase its ownership in Echo to up to 25 per cent, then Crown would not be able to acquire additional Echo shares such that Crown's ownership interest would increase above 25 per cent without first making another application which would then be subject to further investigation and ultimately a determination by the regulators,' Crown said in a statement.

The changes to Crown's application comes after investment firm Perpetual was granted approval by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and the Queensland government to increase its potential maximum voting power in Echo from 10 per cent to 15 per cent.

However, Perpetual had earlier notified the Australian Securities Exchange, on June 22, that it had ceased to be a substantial shareholder in Echo.

Malaysian gambling group Genting holds a stake of about 9.88 per cent in Echo and has also applied to regulators to lift its stake above 10 per cent.

Fat Prophets analyst Greg Fraser said the fact that Crown had asked to increase its holding up to the figure of 25 per cent was 'interesting'.

If Genting were to aim to acquire 25 per cent also, and both companies did in fact obtain 25 per cent each, Genting and Crown acting in unison would be enough to control Echo without making a takeover bid.

However, there was nothing to indicate yet that Crown and Genting were acting or would act in unison.

Mr Fraser said Crown may not necessarily move to a 25 per cent stake immediately. It could lift its stake to 19.9 per cent - the threshold for making a full takeover bid - and then increase its stake in Echo by three per cent every six months under the 'creep' provisions of the Corporations Act.

'I guess the next step is we wait for Genting to do the same. As the gambling parlance goes: to see your 25 and raise you something',' Mr Fraser said.

Echo operates The Star casino in Sydney, the Treasury casino in Brisbane, Jupiters Townsville and Jupiters Gold Coast.

Crown operates the Crown casino and Melbourne and the Burswood casino in Perth.

Shares in Echo were one cent lower at $4.29 at 1104 AEST on Tuesday.


Crown bouncer pleads not guilty - 6th July 2012...

A Crown Casino bouncer has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of a patron who was thrown to the ground 'like a bull'.

Matthew Lawson, 27, was on Friday committed to stand trial over the death of Anthony Dunning during an altercation at the Melbourne casino last July.

Mr Dunning, 40, died in hospital four days later.

After a three-week committal hearing Magistrate Peter Reardon ruled there was enough evidence for Lawson to stand trial.

The court heard during the hearing that casino patrons had warned security staff they were choking Mr Dunning and should let him go.

Two of Mr Dunning's friends were also taken to the ground by bouncers.

Lawson, of Hoppers Crossing, was bailed to appear in the Victorian Supreme Court on July 19 for a directions hearing.

Five other bouncers were also committed to stand trial on lesser charges over the incident involving Mr Dunning or his friends, with each pleading not guilty.

They have been bailed and will appear in the Supreme Court on the same day as Lawson.


Packer in strong position on Barangaroo - 8th July 2012...

Developer Lend Lease says billionaire James Packer would be in a strong position to build a casino at Barangaroo if the NSW government granted a second licence.

The comment by Lend Lease chief executive Steve McCann came as his company secured $2 billion of funding to build the first two commercial towers at the controversial site in Sydney's CBD.

Mr Packer and his Crown Ltd last week sought approval to up its stake in rival Echo Entertainment, which holds the city's sole casino licence.

Mr McCann said Lend Lease was in discussions with several hotel operators and it was talking to the state government about relocating a proposed luxury hotel.

'If you look at Crown's facilities elsewhere in Australia and overseas they're very high quality,' Mr McCann told ABC's Inside Business program on Sunday.

'We're looking for a very high quality hotel and if the opportunity to get a gaming licence puts them in a strong commercial position, which is what you'd expect, then I've no doubt they'd be a competitive proposition.'

Lend Lease had the right to build a hotel on the site but Crown wouldn't automatically win the hotel operation contract if it managed to obtain a casino licence.

'Clearly, if Crown's the best proposition we'll consider that, but we're talking to a number of players,' Mr McCann said.

Crown recently ramped up its move on fellow casinos operator Echo Entertainment, which runs The Star Casino, by seeking regulatory approval to lift its stake from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

Last month Lend Lease signed agreements with Westpac and financial services firm KPMG to occupy the majority of the first two commercial buildings at Barangaroo from around mid-2015 to early 2016.

Mr McCann said his company had been working on the funding for some time with partners Canada Pension Plan, Australian Prime Property Commercial Fund, Telstra Super and First State Super.

'I'm not sure that of itself it indicates that the market's loosening up but it certainly indicates the quality of the product that we have brought to them,' he said.

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