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Blackstone makes sweetened $6.2 billion play for Australia’s Crown

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Investment giant Blackstone Group Inc made a $6.2 billion approach for troubled Australian casino firm Crown Resorts Ltd, sweetening an earlier offer as its main rival bidder is beset by regulatory problems.

The A$12.50-a-share proposal, disclosed by Crown on Friday, is the third from Blackstone and pushed Crown’s shares 17% higher. The stock was still below Blackstone’s indicative price, suggesting a degree of doubt that a deal will eventuate.

The revised offer puts Blackstone in the box seat to win control of Crown, which has faced devastating misconduct inquiries in every state it operates in, plus protracted COVID-19 lockdowns.

Rival bidder Star Entertainment Group Ltd, an Australian casino operator, has backed off its proposed deal citing regulatory uncertainty. It now faces its own misconduct allegations.

Crown still faces a public inquiry into governance and anti-money laundering compliance at its second-biggest earning casino, in Western Australia state, as well as a federal anti-money laundering investigation.

The company founded by billionaire James Packer has already acknowledged to regulators in New South Wales and Victoria that it failed to prevent criminal transactions.

The most consequential of the inquiries, which threatened to withdraw the gambling licence in Victoria behind three quarters of Crown’s profit, ultimately cleared the company last month to keep operating under supervision.

Crown had favoured Star’s buyout approach over an earlier Blackstone proposal, but Star’s troubles threaten to derail any attempt to reopen talks and Blackstone’s latest proposal matches Star’s cash option.

“Crown is a high-quality, strategic asset,” said Steve Johnson, chief investment officer at Forager Funds Management.

It was “not surprising private equity is back at the table” after it was allowed to keep its Victorian licence, but Blackstone’s offer appeared to undervalue Crown, Johnson added.

Crown said its board would consider the latest Blackstone proposal although it had not yet formed a view on its merits.

A spokesperson for Blackstone, Crown’s second biggest shareholder with 9.99% of its shares, confirmed the offer without commenting further.

A Star spokesperson said recently the company had withdrawn its Crown proposal but “as we have said consistently since that time, The Star remains open to exploring potential value enhancing opportunities with Crown”.

($1 = 1.3740 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney; Additional reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru;Editing by Vinay Dwivedi, Stephen Coates and Kim Coghill)

Investment

New Brunswick announces $84.7 million investment to support public schools – CTV News Atlantic

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The New Brunswick provincial government has announced they will invest $84.7 million to support public schools in the province.

The government says the investment will be made during the 2022-23 fiscal year and will include $3.7 million for two new projects and $8.8 million to support the provincewide ventilation program.

A large portion of the investment, $72.2 million, has been earmarked to support ongoing construction projects, capital equipment, improvement work, and the dust collector program.

Dominic Cardy, education and early childhood development minister, tabled the department’s capital budget estimates today in the legislative assembly.

“Students need safe learning environments that meet their educational needs in order for them to learn and be successful long after graduation,” said Cardy.

“The investments we make today will not only support learning and address space deficiencies, but they support long-term community growth and strategic infrastructure planning across the education system.”

According to the province, the projects include a new kindergarten-to-Grade 5 school in Fredericton, which will replace Nashwaaksis Memorial School and McAdam Avenue School, and a new kindergarten-to-Grade 8 school for Saint John’s central peninsula.

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Oil Investments Must Rise to Offset Energy Prices, Soaring Inflation – Bloomberg

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The Riyadh-based International Energy Forum has called on companies to raise investment in oil and natural-gas production to $523 billion a year by the end of this decade to prevent a surge in energy prices and economic unrest.

The think tank’s comments echo those of Saudi Aramco, whose chief executive officer on Monday said there could be “chaos” unless governments stopped discouraging investment in fossil fuels.

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Personal Finance: Investing in Fund Managers in 2021 Was a Bad Investment Idea – Bloomberg

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As Leo Tolstoy taught us at the beginning of Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It’s a lesson being relearned by investors in European asset managers, whose shareholdings have woefully missed out on the gains enjoyed across the broader equity market this year.

The environment for the fund-management industry continues to be challenging, to say the least, with downward pressure on fees, investor preference for cheap index-tracking products and an expensive arms race to keep up with the latest technology. But the biggest laggards among Europe’s standalone money managers have underperformed for idiosyncratic reasons.

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