Melco Resorts was given nod by Beijing for Crown Resorts acquisition: Lawrence Ho

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Melco Resorts & Entertainment boss Lawrence Ho has revealed he was given the green light by Beijing before proceeding with the acquisition of a 19.99% stake in Australia’s Crown Resorts.

The deal, which will see Melco acquire 135.5 million shares from James Packer’s CPH Crown Holdings for a total consideration of HK$9.58 billion (US$1.22 billion), came less than three years after 19 Crown Resorts employees were arrested in mainland China for promoting gambling. At the time, the two companies were still partners in Macau and the Philippines under the Melco-Crown brand.

In an exclusive interview to appear in the July issue of Inside Asian Gaming, Melco’s Chairman and CEO confirms he spoke with both the Chinese and Macau governments before buying into the Australian casino operator.

“I have regular dialogue [with Beijing] and I’ve had my courtesy talk, and Beijing and Macau were supportive,” he said.

“At the same time, they understand that as a company that’s listed in the US, we’re obligated to do our own thing. But even the couple of quiet talks we had were supportive.”

On the topic of government approvals, Ho also explained that he has considered combining the listings of US-listed Melco Resorts and its parent company Melco International Development Ltd but had resisted ahead of Macau’s looming license re-tendering.

“We’ve looked at that,” he said, “but especially with license renewal on the horizon, the government likes that Melco International controls Melco Resorts and that Melco International is a Hong Kong-listed company that I control. But we’ll take a look at it in the future.”

The July 2019 issue of Inside Asian Gaming will be available from next Monday 1 July.