Packer is doubling down on his Barangaroo casino bet

Photo: Scott Barbour/ Getty Images.

Casino giant Crown Resorts will sell two floors of its new luxury Sydney complex for $60 million to its largest shareholder, billionaire James Packer, as part of a $700 million package of asset sales in Australia and overseas.

The company told the stock market on Wednesday that Mr Packer would buy two residential floors “above the mid-levels” at Crown’s upcoming hotel and casino complex in Sydney’s Barangaroo, which is under construction and due to open by 2021.

“The sale documentation will be on the same, or materially the same, terms as the documents to be entered into with other purchasers,” the company said in a statement.

The sale was announced as part of a list of Crown’s plans to divest about $700 million in assets.

Crown said it had entered into a deal to sell a 14-hectare site on the world-famous Las Vegas Boulevard to Wynn Resorts, and it intended to sell more than $70 million worth of shares in US casino giant Caesars.

It also said it had agreed to sell its vast property at Ellerston, in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, to Mr Packer’s sister, Gretel Packer, for $62.5 million.

Crown reaffirmed it was in discussions about selling its 62 per cent stake in the online corporate bookmaker CrownBet, but said there was “no certainty as to whether a transaction will eventuate”.

Crown said it was in talks with the CrownBet management team, led by chief executive Matthew Tripp, about a potential buyout. That deal would be worth about $150 million.

The divestments come after Crown Resorts decided to pull back from its overseas ambitions, selling its stake in a former joint-venture casino in Macau and shelving plans to build a new casino in Las Vegas.

At the company’s annual general meeting in October, Mr Packer conceded that his ambition of expanding Crown Resorts into an international casino and hotel empire had failed, in a large part due to the jailing of Crown staff for the illegal promotion of gambling in mainland China.

“We didn’t succeed in a global strategy,” he said.

However, Crown’s overseas bets had still paid off to the tune of billions of dollars for Crown investors, he said.

“In terms of the list of Australian companies that have gone offshore and have come back to Australia with their tail between their legs, I think we are at the top of the list in terms of we actually made a couple of billion dollars,” Mr Packer said.

Following the China arrests scandal, Crown turned its focus squarely on its operations in Melbourne and Perth, and its long-delayed VIP casino in Sydney.

Mr Packer has told investors he is increasingly upbeat about the prospects of the Sydney project, with VIP revenue starting to bounce back as wealthy foreign gamblers returned to Australia in larger volumes.

This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Business Day. Read the original here, or follow Business Day on Facebook.

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