By Harish Sridharan
(Reuters) – Australia’s biggest casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd reported on Thursday a third consecutive half-yearly loss, as long spells of pandemic-related restrictions and regulatory costs continued to hurt operations.
The company, which recently backed a $6.5 billion offer from private-equity firm Blackstone (NYSE:BX) Inc, is struggling to rebuild its image following multiple enquiries after allegations it enabled money laundering at its casinos.
A Victoria state enquiry last October found Crown unfit to hold a gambling licence in Melbourne, but allowed it to run its biggest-earning casino under supervision.
Crown posted a net loss of A$196.3 million ($141.22 million) for the six months ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of A$120.9 million a year earlier.
It said the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Victoria and New South Wales, home to its casinos in Melbourne and Sydney, respectively, hurt its trading performance at the start of 2022.
Crown’s domestic casinos in Melbourne and Perth are back in operation as it looks to bounce back from pandemic-driven closures.
However, its gambling operations in Sydney are still suspended after an inquiry in 2021 found it had alleged dealings with organised crime groups among other governance failings.
“While we do not underestimate current headwinds facing Crown, there is growing confidence we have turned the corner,” said Chief Executive Officer Steven McCann.
He added that the Blackstone deal reinforced the “attractiveness” of its business and assets.
Earlier this week, Crown backed a buyout from Blackstone, giving billionaire James Packer an exit route from the company.
Smaller peer Star Entertainment Group Ltd’s first-half loss widened to A$73.7 million from A$51.2 million a year earlier, hurt by pandemic-related property shutdowns.
Shares of Crown and Star were flat in early trading, while the broader market advanced 0.6%.
($1 = 1.3900 Australian dollars)
Source : Reuters