DataRoom AM: Packer's Vegas punt

James Packer eyes a return to the US casino market, while offers roll in for Queensland Motorways.

James Packer has never been a shy gambler and it appears he could be ready to make yet another big punt on the US market after a painful entry just before the GFC. But have the scars of the past fully healed?

Elsewhere, bidders line up for Queensland Motorways, the federal government announces the lead advisors for the mammoth Medibank Private float and the listing of Japara Healthcare is well received by the market.

Crown Resorts’ rapid expansion could be about to gather more steam. Not content with plans for a new casino in Sydney, an entry into Sri Lanka and a possible push into the lucrative (though yet to be developed) Japanese market, James Packer is eyeing off a casino in Las Vegas, The Australian Financial Review reports.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a $4 billion development that opened on the famous Strip in 2010, has reportedly received interest from at least four parties as owner Deutsche Bank runs an auction. According to Bloomberg, the site could be worth upwards of $2bn.

It is a great opportunity for Crown on the surface, though Packer’s recent history in Vegas -- he lost over $2bn around the financial crisis -- will likely see him very cautious about taking on a loss-making property.

Meanwhile, the largest M&A deal of the year in Australia is imminent as offers roll in today for the $6bn Queensland Motorways, with the winning bidder possibly chosen before the week is out.

The toll road operator is believed likely to receive interest from four groups: a consortium including Hastings Funds Management, Spain’s Abertis, Dutch pension fund APG and the Kuwait Investment Authority; a group led by Transurban with AustralianSuper and Abu Dhabi Investment Co; a joint venture including Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, Canada’s Borealis and local super fund IFM Investments; and a team of Malaysian investors.

Elsewhere, the most closely watched float of the year is progressing smoothly after the federal government chose Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Macquarie Capital as lead advisors on the $4.5bn privatisation of Medibank Private. The listing could be pushed through before the end of the financial year, though the second half appears a more likely outcome.

According to the AFR, the divestment of Medibank could be followed with the privatisations of the Australian Rail Track Corporation and Defence Housing Australia.

Spurring government confidence in its privatisation pipeline was the well-received listing of aged care group Japara Healthcare, which exploded 34 per cent higher on its debut. With tech and healthcare groups dominating the list of successful IPOs over the past 12 months, it bodes particularly well for the Medibank Private float.

Adding to confidence in the IPO market was the listing of Genesis Energy, with New Zealand’s largest electricity retailer gaining 17 per cent through its first day of trade on Thursday. The company is dual-listed on the NZX and ASX.

In resources, the man behind the funding of the latest ambitious $6.4bn plan to build the Oakajee rail and port project has been revealed as Sydney businessman Roland Frank Bleyer. Full details of the surprise deal with Padbury Mining have not yet been revealed, however, with Padbury extending its trading suspension on Thursday.

Finally, Challenger and Access Capital Advisers have agreed to merge their infrastructure operations to create a $4bn infrastructure fund.

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