A High-Stakes Acquisition Race
Iris Capital emerged victorious in an intense acquisition contest that sparked this year. The Gravanis brothers’ Oscars Hotels made the initial offer of $52 million in May, which was later elevated to $58.2 million in July. Iris Capital, however, remained unphased and ramped up its proposition from $60 million to the winning bid of $63 million.
This acquisition signifies a substantial lifeline for Casino Canberra, which was previously beleaguered by a burdensome $33 million loan and revenue declines caused by COVID-19-related disruptions.
Iris Capital on an Acquisition Spree
July has witnessed Iris Capital’s aggressive investment endeavours, culminating in a total expenditure of nearly $220 million on new hospitality properties. The Sydney-based Strathfield Hotel was recently added to their portfolio for $80 million, alongside a $75 million investment in five assets in Alice Springs. Additionally, Iris Capital committed $100 million to revamp the Lasseters Hotel Casino in Alice Springs.
Upon securing the acquisition, Mr Arnaout of Iris Capital commented, “This opportunity to bring Casino Canberra under our umbrella is a thrilling prospect. We anticipate a fruitful alliance with the Aquis team.”
Regulatory Clearance & Protection Terms
The completion of the Casino Canberra transaction is contingent on the green light from Aquis Canberra Holdings, which holds an 88.5% stake in Aquis. Regulatory authorities overseeing casino and liquor licensing also need to sanction the sale. Iris Capital’s agreement with Aquis grants them the right to counter any higher offers that may emerge. Moreover, a $1 million break fee ensures Iris Capital’s interests are safeguarded if the deal does not reach fruition.
A Unique Casino in the Australian Market
Casino Canberra’s distinct status among Australian casinos has presented its own unique set of challenges. As the only casino operating without pokie machines, it has faced hurdles in increasing its revenue streams.
While Casino Canberra stands distinct in Australia’s brick-and-mortar casino landscape, its sale to Iris Capital comes at a time when the global gambling industry is increasingly shifting towards online casinos, marking a key moment of contrast and potential future direction. This issue was a key point of contention for Aquis, who had previously lobbied for permission to house 500 pokie machines in the establishment.
Aquis Entertainment’s Potential New Directions
The departure of Casino Canberra from its portfolio triggers a strategic reassessment for Aquis Entertainment. The company has hinted at evaluating new business prospects, debt repayment and possibly distributing funds to shareholders from the proceeds of the sale.
As part of this reassessment, Aquis is contemplating repaying the loan from its primary shareholder, Aquis Canberra Holdings Pty Ltd, in part or in full. The potential for a shareholder dividend or distribution is also under consideration.