Aquis Entertainment has entered an agreement to sell Casino Canberra to Bill and Mario Gravanis’ Oscars Hotels.
The $52 million deal is subject to shareholder approval – with the next meeting scheduled in late July or August.
The government also needs to sign off on it.
ASX-listed Aquis acquired the casino in 2014, later failing to win approval for a $330m redevelopment which would have expanded gaming space, and added seven restaurants, a shopping centre, nightclub precinct and five star hotel.
If the sale is approved, Oscars subsidiary Capital Leisure & Entertainment will hold it.
Oscars portfolio grows
The deal comes less than a fortnight since we reported Oscars purchased the Art Deco Merewether Beach Hotel for c$40m – a Newcastle region record pub price.
Also this quarter, the group outlaid $35m for the Caves Beach Tavern, which includes 39 accommodation cabins, about 25km south of Merewether.
Last year, the hospitality giant purchased a half-stake in a portfolio of five Tamworth pubs, as well as Brisbane’s Oakwood hotel.
The Gravanis brother’s property portfolio includes about 40 assets, also including retail, offices, event centres and boats.
“We are excited by the opportunity to acquire the Casino Canberra business,” Mario Gravanis said (story continues below).
“We will be working closely with Aquis over the coming months to satisfy the necessary conditions precedent with minimal disruption to the business and look forward to working with the Casino Canberra team in the future,” he added.
Aquis to review options
Aquis’ plan to redevelop the casino was rejected in 2018, however the government made a counter offer which would have increased the number of slot machines to 200, and electronic gambling machine entitlements, to 60.
Chaired by Tony Fung, the company said it would review how to spend proceeds, but has indicated it would pursue other business opportunities.
“As part of this review, Aquis is considering using the proceeds…to repay some or all of the convertible loan between the company and its major shareholder Aquis Canberra Holdings Pty Ltd,” a statement added, citing the balance is c$33m and due for repayment in 2024.
A shareholder distribution could also be on the cards.
Aquis and Casino Canberra chief executive director Allison Gallaugher said the proposed transaction provides “considerable value” to shareholders.
“It recognises the attractive operating performance of the business which has continued to trade well since reopening post the COVID-19 lockdowns,” she added.
“As an employee of Casino Canberra, I am also very excited about the future and working with Oscars on the continual improvement of our business,” according to the executive.
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