SYDNEY Nov 13 Chinese tycoon Tony Fung has
offered to pay A$214 million ($199 million) to buy Reef Casino
Trust, which owns the only casino in the Australian
city of Cairns near the Great Barrier Reef, in a bid to enter
the country's gambling and tourism market.
Shares in Reef Casino surged 42.6 percent to six-year highs
after the announcement.
Fung, a billionaire son of one of the founders of Hong Kong
conglomerate Sun Hung Kai & Co. Ltd, has previously
proposed a A$4.2 billion ($3.8 billion) casino and resort
project in Cairns, which has yet to get approval from the
Queensland state government.
Reef was in discussion with Aquis Casino Acquisitions Pty
Ltd, controlled by Fung, after receiving a non-binding proposal
to buy all the units at a cash price of A$4.354 per unit, the
trust company said in a statement.
The offer is priced at a 53 percent premium to Reef's
closing price on Tuesday.
One condition of the proposal is that Aquis also buys Casino
Canberra, which is associated with Reef.
The biggest holders of the trust - Casinos Austria and
France's Accor Group - had indicated that they would
support the proposal unless there was a superior proposal, the
Aquis has started meeting with the Queensland and Australian
Capital Territory governments regarding regulatory processes
involved, according to the statement.
Australia's 13 casinos currently capture just one percent of
the $34 billion market for high-roller gamblers in Asia
annually, but state governments are greenlighting multibillion
dollar developments to boost that figure.
Echo Entertainment Group Ltd and Crown Resorts Ltd
, controlled by billionaire James Packer, are moving
north as they battle for supremacy in the market. Echo unveiled
plans to invest A$1.5 billion in its Queensland casinos last
($1 = 1.0734 Australian dollars)
(Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Richard Pullin)