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James Packer relinquishes majority stake in Crown Resorts

Crown Casino AustraliaBillionaire James Packer’s privately held investment vehicle, Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH), has agreed to sell a stake in Crown Resorts worth $450 million.

CPH agreed to sell 35 million shares at $12.80 each, equating to roughly 4.8 percent of Crown Resort’s total value.

The sale means Mr Packer now owns 48.2 percent of the company, although he remains the biggest shareholder.

In a filing submitted by Crown Resorts, CPH said the sale was conducted as part of its “financing and capital management strategy”.

“CPH remains supportive of Crown Resorts’ recently announced initiatives to increase shareholder value, being the new dividend policy, proposed demerger and continued evaluation of a potential REIT [real estate investment trust],” the company said.

The Australian Financial Review has reported that CPH conducted financial reports following Mr Packer’s $1.25 billion settlement with sister Gretel Packer in 2015. A large tax bill from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in 2015 may also have played a role in the decision.

Crown Resorts faces a $125 million hit from the ATO after being slugged with a tax bill of more than $350 million in February.

The company paid some of that bill to avoid interest and penalties, Fairfax Media reports. However, Crown Resorts insists the payment doesn’t imply admission of liability.

The sale of 35 million shares also comes only two months after Crown Resorts announced plans to break away from its US$2 billion stake in Melco Crown Entertainment, which operates casinos in Macau.

Selling down its stake in Macau led to a $602 million gain in net profits, up to $948.9 million. Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth also buffed up full years results, up 0.8 per cent to $3.23 billion in revenue.

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