After Macau and Vegas, investors ask what's next for Australia's Packer

Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:52am EST
 
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By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A decade ago, Australian billionaire James Packer had a clear, if unconventional, strategy: to turn his father's established television-to-newspaper conglomerate into a casino empire, tapping Asia's richest gamblers.

But as that plan falters, partly under the weight of China's corruption crackdown, Packer has taken cash out of the Crown Resorts (CWN.AX: Quote) business and pulled back in both Las Vegas and Macau in the past two months - unsettling even seasoned investors who say they need to know what the alternative is for the company.

A series of technology investments by Packer, largely in Israel, have helped muddy the waters - along with a film production company in which one of Packer's partners is Steven Mnuchin, who has been nominated for the position of U.S. Treasury Secretary.

"It's pretty hard to digest it all with only a smattering of information," said Angus Gluskie, a fund manager at White Funds Management, which has a small stake in Crown.

"We all want to get a handle on what the real agenda is."

WALKED AWAY

The high roller gambling business has struggled since Beijing's graft crackdown began in 2014, battering Macau, which had been a potential transit point for illicit money outflows and corrupt officials fleeing China.   Continued...

 
FILE PHOTO -  Australian gambling tycoon James Packer drinks water during day two of the Commonwealth Business Forum in Colombo November 13, 2013.   REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo