Virus outbreak forces Cyprus casino closures

By Mia Chapman Updated
City of Dreams to open in mid-2022 

A fresh COVID-19 outbreak has forced the closure of casinos in Cyprus.

Calvin Ayre reports that Melco Resorts and Entertainment has closed its local subsidiary, Cyprus Casinos.

C2 Paphos shut down on Friday, while C2 Limassol turned off its lights two hours later.

Both venues are expected to remain closed for the remainder of the month, while C2 Nicosia and C2 Ayia Napa will remain open, however this could change if the situation warrants further restrictions.

The fifth venue, Larnaca, is in a transition to a new home and has remained closed since the pandemic began.

Cyprus had 185 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, with the number of infections jumping from 28 per cent to 70 per cent in the past six weeks, with a ban on all public gatherings, shut down schools and religious services now conducted without physical participation.

Melco has been busy building a massive casino resort in Cyprus, the City of Dreams Mediterranean in Limassol.

The current property there is just a temporary facility while the larger, $650 million resort is completed.

The COVID-19 situation has taken its toll on the company, both in Cyprus and elsewhere, with major net losses in 2020.

It reached out to offer as much as $1 billion in senior notes to investors in August and the new closures in Cyprus are going to impact its ability to stay on a dedicated path to recovery.

In its latest earnings report, Melco revealed it had lost $331 million in the third quarter due to the ongoing pandemic.

Its Cyprus operations had fared better than most, accounting for $20.5 million in revenue and $6.3 million in earnings.

With the new shutdowns, the last quarter is unlikely to continue that rebound.

Melco sells Crown shares to US-based group

Casino investor Melco Resorts and Entertainment has sold its 9.99 per cent stake in Australian gaming operator Crown Resorts to an entity “owned or managed” by US-based asset management firm The Blackstone Group.

GGR Asia reported in April the sale was at a 37.3 per cent discount compared to the price Melco paid in May last year.

In a filing to the Australian Securities Exchange, Crown Resorts said it had been informed that an entity linked to The Blackstone Group had acquired 67,675,000 Crown Resorts shares from Melco Resorts – representing its entire stake.

The shares were sold at a price of A$8.15 per share.

The sale amounted to more than half a billion dollars in aggregate.

In May last year, Melco Resorts said it was paying A$13 per Crown share to CPH Crown Holdings.

The latter company, controlled by Australian businessman James Packer, was a major shareholder in Crown Resorts.

The acquisition price per share represented an aggregate investment of nearly A$879.8 million for the 9.99 per cent stake in Crown Resorts.

The management of Melco Resorts had already flagged earlier this year the sale of the Crown Resorts stake was a “potential source of liquidity” in case Melco Resorts had additional “capital needs”.

When it first announced the deal, Melco Resorts was to acquire a 19.9 per cent stake in Crown Resorts, in a deal valued at A$1.76 billion.

In February, Melco said it had decided not to pursue the purchase of a second tranche of shares in the Australian company because of the “impact of the coronavirus pandemic”.

The latest announcement comes amid an inquiry into Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a gaming licence in New South Wales.

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