Casino operator Melco rethinks Crown deal as coronavirus hits travel

Feb 6 (Reuters) - Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd said on Thursday it has shelved plans to raise its stake in Australia’s Crown Resorts Ltd as the coronavirus outbreak in China forces the casino operator to rethink its non-core investments.

The U.S.-listed casino operator said it would not go ahead with the second tranche of a planned purchase of about 20% of Crown from casino mogul James Packer for a total of A$1.76 billion ($1.19 billion).

Melco, which currently holds 9.99% in Crown Resorts, also abandoned plans for a seat on Crown’s board.

The rapid outbreak of the coronavirus has killed more than 560 and infected over 28,000, with airlines cancelling flights and companies closing factories and stores in China.

Earlier this week, Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, ordered all casino operators to suspend operations for two weeks. The Chinese territory has confirmed at least 10 cases so far.

The company will now focus on Macau, the Philippines and Cyprus and will still seek a casino license in Japan, Melco said in a regulatory filing.

Crown Resorts was not available for comment outside normal business hours.

$1 = 1.4846 Australian dollars Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila