Aquis Entertainment Ltd says it has signed a new share purchase agreement with NSW-based Iris Capital to sell 100% of the shares in subsidiary Aquis Canberra Pty Ltd – operator of Casino Canberra – for AU$63 million (US$42.4 million).
The final AU$63 million offer was AU$3 million (US$2.0 million) higher than Iris’ first offer made last week and also trumped the AU$58.2 million (US$39.2 million) proposal submitted by Capital Leisure & Entertainment Pty Ltd – the subsidiary of hospitality giant The Oscars Group which had first tried to acquire the company last month.
In a filing, Aquis said the final offer from Iris represents “a material premium to the Oscars transaction” and that it “enhances execution certainty through the receipt of 100% of the purchase price into a trust account ahead of completion.”
The sale is conditional on Aquis shareholder as well as regulatory approval, while Aquis has again left the door open to accept higher offers pending payment of an AU$1 million break fee to Iris.
With Casino Canberra representing Aquis’ primary business, the company said this week that it is considering potential new business opportunities.
“The board of Aquis is undertaking a review as to the best use of the sale proceeds, including assessing alternative business opportunities, repayment of debt and a potential distribution of funds to shareholders,” the company said.
“As part of this review Aquis is also considering using the proceeds from the Transaction to repay some or all of the convertible loan between the Company and its major shareholder Aquis Canberra Holdings Pty Ltd and the possibility of a shareholder dividend or distribution.”
The sale of Casino Canberra comes after Aquis failed to reach an agreement with the ACT Government over a proposed AU$330 million (US$226 million) redevelopment of the property.
Aquis, which purchased Casino Canberra in 2014, submitted its original redevelopment plans in 2015 including a request for permission to install up to 500 slot machines. Casino Canberra is not permitted to operate slot machines under current legislation.
The company’s initial bid was rejected in December 2018, with the government describing the proposal as untenable due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding regulation and financing details. Instead, The ACT Government issued a counter offer under which Aquis would be permitted to run 200 slot machines and 60 EGMs subject to certain strict conditions. Aquis has balked at the reduced offering.