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Crown Pulls Out of $1.34 Bil Macau Deal

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Published on:
May/09/2017

(Australian Associated Press) - Casinos operator Crown Resorts has quit the major gambling destination of Macau after struggles including last year's detention of 15 employees by Chinese authorities.

Crown, whose biggest shareholder is billionaire James Packer, said on Tuesday it had agreed to sell its remaining 11.2 per cent stake in its Macau joint venture to partner Melco Resorts and Entertainment for $1.34 billion.

"Upon completion of the repurchase agreement, Crown Resorts will no longer hold an interest in Melco Resorts," Crown said in a statement on Tuesday.

Crown expects to complete the deal by Monday and will use the proceeds to reduce debt.

Crown's pull-back from Asia's biggest gambling market started in May 2016 but quickened pace after Chinese authorities detained 15 employees in October amid a crackdown on the gambling marketing and outflows of money from the Chinese mainland.

Melco Resorts chief executive Lawrence Ho said the sale of Crown's remaining stake in the joint venture concluded the world's most successful global gaming partnership.

An agreement between Crown and Melco Resorts relating to the Japan market will also be terminated.

Aside from casinos and hotels in Macau, Melco Resorts also operates a casino in Manila in the Philippines.

Crown shares were 16 cents, or 1.3 per cent, higher at $12.66 at 1200 AEST.

Crown said in February it intends to focus on its casinos and hotels in Melbourne and Perth, the luxury casino-hotel development at Sydney's Barangaroo, development of the Queensbridge hotel tower in Melbourne, and its digital business.

The arrests of the Crown employees triggered caution in the VIP gambling market in China, hurting the flow of rich high-rollers to casinos in Macau and Australia.

Crown has since dumped plans to de-merge its international assets, sold its interests in Macau, dropped plans to build a casino in Las Vegas, replaced Robert Rankin as chairman, and reappointed Mr Packer - who holds a 48.2 per cent stake - to its board.

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