DataRoom AM: Packer's next play

Billionaire James Packer looks to be trying his luck in Las Vegas once more, while Commonwealth Bank is on the hunt for an African acquisition.

James Packer appears intent on making a grand return to the scene of one of his most bitter losses, with plans for a Las Vegas casino reportedly being drawn up by the gaming mogul just months after losing out on a multi-billion dollar casino purchase on The Strip.

Elsewhere, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia seeks mobility in Africa, Frasers Centrepoint raises the stakes at Australand and Shell hunts a plan B should a Woodside stake sale plan come to nothing.

Rich lister James Packer appears intent on a return to Las Vegas, with Bloomberg reporting he is in discussions to buy a parcel of land on the famous Strip (or infamous, depending on personal perspective). For Packer, who lost out in a bidding war for the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas just two months ago, it would mark a return to the site of significant past pain given investment losses of about $2 billion at the gambling mecca around the time of the financial crisis.

According to the report, Packer has secured a near-10 per cent package of debt related to a property opposite the renowned Wynn Las Vegas, with talks underway with leading debt holder Oaktree Capital to secure the rights to the site. Packer and his gaming firm Crown Resorts were linked to the site back in 2007 but nothing came of it as Israeli developers acquired the land for a record per acre price. The site has remained vacant ever since as falling property values put the owners under pressure and eventually led distressed debt investor Oaktree to pounce.

Packer’s Crown Resorts isn’t the only big name believed to be on the prowl overseas, with Commonwealth Bank considered interested in an African acquisition. Reports of CBA’s African intrigue first emerged in May, with talk it could be tempted by a bid for an established banking business in the region, but, according to The Australian Financial Review, the Australian giant is actually eyeing off the continent’s payment technology companies.

Africa is indeed considered a leading frontier for mobile payments, though it’s hard to see where CBA would find a sound entry point. The most renowned players -- the Vodafone-backed M-Pesa, France’s Orange telecommunications group and giant South African telco MTN -- are unlikely to be willing sellers.

In energy, US firm Apache has confirmed plans to exit its 13 per cent stake in the Chevron-led Wheatstone LNG project in WA. Speculation earlier this month suggested the firm had tapped Goldman Sachs and Macquarie Group to advise on the sale, which could recoup about $2.5bn.

Meanwhile, Shell is unsure on plan B should its plan to sell over 9 per cent of its stake in Woodside Petroleum back to the firm via a buyback fail to receive the green light from Woodside shareholders. The energy giant has already reduced its stake from 23.1 per cent to 13.6 per cent via a sale to institutional investors, but is hoping to bring its shareholding below 5 per cent via a $2.7bn buyback. However, proxy votes indicate the 75 per cent approval threshold is unlikely to be reached at a meeting of Woodside shareholders today.

In property, Frasers Centrepoint has warned its $2.6bn offer for control of Australand will cease on August 7 if acceptances have not jumped beyond 50 per cent by that stage. The development throws the ball firmly in the court of former Australand suitor Stockland, which is believed likely to sell its 19.9 per cent stake rather than engage in a bidding war with Frasers. Acceptances of the Frasers bid currently remain below 3 per cent.

In the IPO market, Morgan Stanley is considering the retention of a stake in RetireAustralia upon its listing on the ASX later in the year, the AFR reports. The retirement village operator is jointly owned by Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan, with the latter expected to exit the $600m venture entirely.

Elsewhere, fellow IPO candidate Urbanise has received strong demand from potential investors, with the planned $15m float likely to be upgraded as a result.

Finally, Lynas has said it has made significant progress in talks with lenders amid fears the rare earths miner is facing difficulty in restructuring its debt load, while Macquarie Group has divested $60m worth of stock in Macquarie Atlas Roads through a block trade overnight, according to the AFR.