RPT-Australia's Crown wins approval to raise stake in rival Echo

Sun May 12, 2013 5:40pm EDT

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(Repeats story from late Friday; no change to text)

SYDNEY May 10 (Reuters) - Crown Ltd, the Australian casino company controlled by billionaire James Packer, has won regulatory approval to increase its 10 percent stake in rival Echo Entertainment Group, the operator of Sydney's sole casino.

Echo has been courted by both Crown and companies associated with Malaysian gaming giant Genting Bhd because it has the rights until 2019 to operate the only casino in Sydney, which is attracting more and more Asian gamblers.

Crown, which had been seeking approval to raise its stake to 25 percent, said the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority had granted approval to increase its stake in Echo up to 23 percent. At today's prices, the 13 percent increase could cost about A$386 million ($393.16 million).

Crown is planning to build a high-roller casino as part of a $1 billion development in Sydney, a move Echo is contesting.

Genting, though Genting Singapore PLC, unexpectedly cut its stake in Echo last September, but still owns shares through its Genting Hong Kong Ltd unit.

Genting has also applied to increase its stake above 10 percent.

($1 = 0.9818 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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