Australia’s biggest casino operator, Crown Resorts Ltd, said on Thursday its board was likely to back an improved A$8.87 billion ($6.46 billion) buyout proposal from U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Inc unless a higher offer emerged.
Crown received a fourth non-binding offer of A$13.10 a share, having dismissed Blackstone’s previous bid of A$12.50 as not “compelling https://www.reuters.com/business/australias-crown-says-blackstones-62-bln-buyout-offer-not-compelling-2021-12-01/#:~:text=N)%20%246.2%20billion%20buyout%20offer,inquiries%20for%20a%20revised%20proposal”.
The revised offer puts Blackstone in the box seat to win control of Crown, which has faced devastating misconduct inquiries https://www.reuters.com/business/australias-crown-branded-disgraceful-gets-two-years-fix-melbourne-casino-2021-10-25 in every state it operates in, while protracted COVID-19 lockdown measures has caused a drop in visitors.
A person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters the near 5% price rise agreed after initial due diligence was supported by major investors, including founder James Packer, who collectively own around 60% of Crown stock.
There are hopes of signing a deal by January-end, said the person, who was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter and so declined to be identified.
Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH), a vehicle owned by Packer with a 37% stake in Crown, said it was encouraged by the announcement of the proposal and awaited further developments.
“CPH will review all documents released to the market by Crown Resorts relating to a binding control transaction prior to making a decision regarding its shareholding,” it said.
Investment manager Perpetual, Crown’s third-largest shareholder with a 9.2% stake, said it was in favour of the revised proposal in the absence of a better offer.
Blackstone, which owns 9.9%, declined to comment.
The deal, which requires approval from casino regulators in three Australian states and a shareholder vote, could be completed by the end of June, said a second person familiar with the matter.
Crown shares jumped as much as 9% to A$12.68 on Thursday morning, their highest price since June 4, but still well below Blackstone’s offer indicating market doubt about a rival bid.
Following the latest offer, the casino operator said https://events.miraqle.com/DownloadFile.axd?file=/Report/ComNews/20220113/02475175.pdf it will engage with Blackstone on a non-exclusive basis and give the investment manager the opportunity to finalise due diligence.
Crown said if Blackstone makes a binding offer of at least A$13.10 per share and if there are no superior offers, its board intends to recommend shareholders vote in favour of the proposal.
“It is likely that a deal will get done,” said Steve Johnson, chief investment officer at Forager Funds Management, which owns Crown shares.
“The increase in offer price is a welcome step in the right direction and we are supportive of the board continuing a push for an appropriate firm offer for shareholders,” he said.
After an inquiry in July last year urged Crown be stripped of its gambling licence for its main Melbourne resort https://www.reuters.com/business/australia-inquiry-urged-strip-crown-resorts-licence-main-casino-2021-07-20, Australia’s second-biggest casino operator Star Entertainment Group Ltd withdrew https://www.reuters.com/business/australias-star-entertainment-abandons-66-bln-bid-crown-resorts-2021-07-22/#:~:text=July%2023%20(Reuters)%20-%20Australian,licence%2C%20sending%20its%20shares%20lower a A$9 billion mostly scrip buyout proposal.
Star, subject to a separate regulatory inquiry over its actions to counter money laundering, has left open the possibility of re-entering the fray. In an emailed response to Reuters on Thursday, it reiterated it “remains open to exploring potential value enhancing opportunities with Crown”.
Crown remains open to talks with Star and expects its peer to have more room to manoeuvre after the regulatory inquiry wraps up, said a third person familiar with the matter.
Public hearings on Star are due to begin in March.
($1 = 1.3729 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Scott Murdoch and Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Savyata Mishra and Harshita Swaminathan in Bengaluru; Writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Karishma Singh and Christopher Cushing)
House Price Index rose 26% in 2021, fastest pace on record – CBC News
The Canadian Real Estate Association’s House Price Index rose by 26.6 per cent in the 12 months up to December, the fastest annual pace of gain on record.
The group, which represents more than 100,000 realtors and tabulates sales data from homes that listed and sell via the Multiple Listings Service, said the supply of homes for sale at the end of the month hit an all-time low.
After pausing for a few weeks in the early days of the pandemic, Canada’s housing market has been on an absolute tear for the past two years, as feverish demand from buyers wishing to take advantage of rock-bottom interest rates has drastically outpaced the supply of homes to buy.
That imbalance is a major factor contributing to higher prices, as buyers have to pay more and more to outbid others because of the lack of alternatives.
Various experts are suggesting that parts of the country are showing signs of being in a speculative bubble, and CREA says the biggest reason for runaway price increases is that there aren’t enough homes being put up for sale.
“There are currently fewer properties listed for sale in Canada than at any point on record,” CREA’s chief economist Shaun Cathcart said. “So unfortunately, the housing affordability problem facing the country is likely to get worse before it gets better.”
High prices not denting demand
CREA says the average price of a Canadian home that sold on MLS in December went for $713,500. That’s actually down from the record high of more than $720,000 in November, but still well up on an annual basis.
High prices don’t seem to be slowing demand, however, as 2021 was the busiest year for home sales ever. Some 666,995 residential properties traded hands on MLS last year, smashing the previous annual record by 20 per cent.
TD Bank economist Rishi Sondhi said that there was a less than two-month supply of homes for sale during the month, which means at the current sales pace, all listings would be gone in less than two months. Under normal conditions, there’s a five-month supply of homes for sale, and Sondhi says that supply and demand imbalance is a major factor in eye-popping price gains.
“With interest-rate pull-forward behaviour keeping demand so strong, and supply struggling to keep up, it’s little wonder why prices are continuing their relentless upward march,” he said. “Buyers pulling forward demand ahead of looming interest rate hikes kept sales at unsustainable levels last month. How long this effect will last is uncertain, but it should eventually fade.”
COVID-19 antiviral: Canada authorizes Pfizer pill – CTV News
Health Canada has authorized the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid.
The federal health agency says the prescription-only medication can be given to adults ages 18 and older to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, if they have a confirmed positive viral test and are at a high risk of becoming seriously ill.
The authorization comes with specific instructions on scenarios in which the regime cannot be used, including to prevent COVID-19 infections or to treat patients who are already hospitalized due to severe COVID-19 cases.
The medication— two antiviral medicines co-packaged together— cannot be taken for longer than five days in a row, nor can it be given to teens or children.
More details about the authorization are being provided by Health Canada’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma, in a technical briefing in Ottawa.
Pfizer submitted clinical data for the oral medication, on Dec. 1, 2021.
The government has a deal in place with the pharmaceutical giant securing access to an initial one million doses of the therapeutic drug.
Responding to recent calls from the provinces for a swift rollout of this medication in the face of an expected surge in Omicron hospitalizations, the federal government has vowed that delivery of the drug will happen in short order.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi will be holding a press conference to discuss the rollout of this treatment at 1:30 p.m. EST.
In November 2021, Pfizer released the results of their Phase 2/3 trials for the drug, stating that they had found the pills to significantly reduce hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients.
Pfizer said that in a randomized, double-blind study of more than 380 patients, there was an 89 per cent reduction in the risk of being hospitalized or dying of COVID-19 in patients that received Pfizer’s pill within three days of displaying COVID-19 symptoms, compared to the study group that received a placebo.
According to Pfizer, Paxlovid is designed to block the activity of an enzyme in SARS-CoV-2 that is essential for the virus to replicate itself, and also help to slow the breakdown of the pill’s ingredients in order to help combat the virus for longer.
“PAXLOVID stops the virus from multiplying. This can help your body to overcome the virus infection and may help you get better faster,” reads Health Canada’s authorization.
Paxlovid contains two medicines co-packaged together, a 150mg pink tablet of Nirmatrelvir and a 100mg white tablet of Ritonavir, which has been used in combination with other antiviral medications before.
The regime is meant to be taken consistently twice a day, for five days in a row. The agency has outlined on their website the detailed instructions for taking this medication, as well as a list of potential contraindications.
For example, Health Canada has issued warnings for patients with kidney or liver problems; patients with a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or are planning to become pregnant; and patients who take a series of other medicines which may interact with Paxlovid.
Side effects can include an altered sense of taste, diarrhea, muscle pain, vomiting, high blood pressure, and headache. Though, given the limited use of this medication to date, the agency cautions that it is possible not all side effects are known at this time and advise speaking with a healthcare professional if other side “troublesome” effects arise.
The medication is what is called a “protease inhibitor antiviral therapy”, a type of medication that has largely been used before to treat HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
Health Canada has also been reviewing an experimental pill from drugmaker Merck, called molnupiravir, since mid August. The federal government also has a contract to purchase 500,000 of Merck’s antiviral medication, with an option for 500,000 more pending regulatory approval.
In late December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for both Pfizer and Merck’s drugs.
With files from CTV News’ Alexandra Mae Jones and Sarah Turnbull
China cuts rates on policy loans for first time since April 2020 – CNBC
China’s central bank on Monday cut the borrowing costs of its medium-term loans for the first time since April 2020, defying market expectations, to cushion any economic slowdown.
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said it was lowering the interest rate on 700 billion yuan ($110.19 billion) worth of one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) loans to some financial institutions by 10 basis points to 2.85% from 2.95% in previous operations.
Thirty-four out of the 48 traders and analysts, or 70% of all participants, polled by Reuters last week predicted no change to the MLF rates, although a rising number of market participants start to forecast a rate cut.
With 500 billion yuan worth of MLF loans maturing on Monday, the operation resulted a net 200 billion yuan of fresh fund injections into the banking system.
The central bank also lowered the borrowing costs of seven-day reverse repurchase agreements, or repos, by the same margin to 2.10% from 2.20%, when it offered another 100 billion yuan worth of reverse repos into the banking system on the day, compared with 10 billion worth of such short-term liquidity tool due on Monday.
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