A Hong Kong billionaire has put on hold plans to buy a casino in Cairns and build a nearby resort amid regulatory delays.
Tony Fung’s Aquis Casino Acquisitions has offered about $217 million to take over Reef Casino Trust (RCT), which owns the Reef Hotel Casino complex in Cairns.
He also wants to build a six-star casino and resort at Yorkey’s Knob, 15km north of Cairns.
But Aquis on Monday said Queensland’s Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation was unable to meet a November 28 deadline for a decision on whether to grant regulatory approval for the proposed takeover.
The offer expires on November 28, and Aquis says it will not extend it. Therefore, the offer is likely to lapse.
The news sent RCT shares plummeting by more than 30 per cent.
Aquis said it was still committed to being a major investor in Cairns and far north Queensland, and was continuing its work in progressing the resort development at Yorkeys Knob.
However, the purchase of the Reef Hotel Casino was an important part of its development plan for the resort.
“Completing the RCT takeover offer in 2014 was always important to Aquis’s overall financial and investment plans,” Aquis said in a statement.
“Aquis will be undertaking a strategic review of its plans and development timetable over the coming months.”
Aquis said if the state government made a decision soon on whether to grant regulatory approval, it may reconsider a takeover of RCT in 2015.
But any new offer would have to be negotiated with RCT, and the trust’s main stakeholders – Casinos Austria and Accor.
The Foreign Investment Review Board in September approved Aquis’ plan to take over RCT.
Aquis is also proposing to buy Casino Canberra from Casinos Austria.
Aquis and Casinos Austria have agreed that the deal would no longer be conditional upon the takeover of RCT.