Mon, Dec 24, 1:01pm by Staff Writer
Casino Canberra is set to change ownership following the signing of a $32 million deal. Aquis Entertainment, owned by Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung, will sell their ownership of the casino to Blue Whale Entertainment.
In a multi-faceted sale, Fung will sell his majority shareholding to Blue Whale, with the sale to include paying off a loan and a three-year transition to buy remaining shares.
Mr. Fung owns almost 90% of shares in Aquis, an Australian Stock Exchange listed company. The deal will require shareholder approval. It is expected that the information of the sale will be communicated to shareholders in January for a meeting in early March.
Aquis bought Casino Canberra from Casinos Austria for $6.5 million in 2014.
Blue Whale Entertainment is owned and controlled by Michael Gu, who leads one of Australia’s biggest hotel owners. He is a shareholder in the SB&G Group (Australia) Fund, who own the Crown Plaza hotel. He is chief executive of iProsperity, who invest on behalf of high-worth Asian investors, according to the Australian Financial Review.
Mr Gu currently does not have a casino licence. To obtain one, this will need to be approved by the ACT government.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, he said Blue Whale was established for iProsperity’s growing leisure and entertainment portfolio and that “with our wealth of experience in hotels, we believe this presents the business with a unique opportunity to release this largely untapped market and provide Canberra with more world class experiences”.
“We are hoping to create a brand-new entertainment hub for the nation’s capital and attract even greater numbers of visitors to Canberra,” he said.
A spokesman for ACT Gaming Minister Gordon Ramsay told The Canberra Times that the minister had not met with any representatives with regards to the acquisition of a casino license.
According to gaming laws, anyone who is looking to purchase the casino must undergo a probity assessment before the minister will approve the sale.
In the case of a corporation, the assessment extends to each executive officer and influential person within the entity.
Asked whether the sale was a shock, the spokesman said the decision was a “matter entirely for the company”, although Aquis had previously told the stock exchange that it had been engaging in a confidential bidding processes.
Asked on why Mr Fung decided to sell, a spokesman said Blue Whale’s proposal had been unsolicited. Mr Fung’s Australian focus would be towards growing his racehorse breeding business, Aquis Farm.
CEO of Aquis Entertainment, Jessica Mellor said the sale will provide considerable value to the company and minority shareholders.
“It recognises the significantly improved operating performance of the business and has the effect of removing the existing convertible loan with relatively minimal dilution to minority holders. We look forward to working collaboratively with Blue Whale, who will become Aquis’ majority shareholder if the transaction is approved,” she said.
Canberra Casino to Change Hands
iProsperity Group (iPG) CEO Mr Gu’s Blue Whale Entertainment Pty Ltd (Blue Whale) has entered into a binding implementation deed to acquire a controlling share of the owner of Casino Canberra.
— iPG (@iprosperityAU) December 21, 2018
Blue Whale Entertainment was previously known as i-Prosperity Global Wealth. The name change to Blue Whale took effect in late September this year.
The deal signed between Aquis and Blue Whale includes a $4 million cash component up front, plus Blue Whale paying $24 million of a $37 million debt that Aquis owns to Tony Fung.
Part of the outstanding debt is being forgiven. Then, after three years, the rest of the Fung shares are to be bought by Blue Whale, leaving Blue Whale owning up to 87% of the shares.
On Friday, Aquis told the Australian Stock Exchange that the company’s financial controller, Allison Gallaugher, would take over as acting chief executive on January 1.
Current Chief Executive Officer Mellor is planning her departure for next August.
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