Australia's top casino company Crown Resorts on Thursday said no charges had been laid against 18 staff detained for alleged gambling crimes in China, as shareholders gathered for a general meeting in the shadow of the legal crisis.
Ahead of the meeting in Perth, the Crown board endorsed long-standing plans to spin off some Australian hotels, a move designed to split the assets from its underperforming businesses in the Chinese gaming hub of Macau.
But the arrest of the staff, including Crown's Australian head of international VIP gambling, Jason O'Connor, in China last week was the primary concern for investors as the company's shares hit a new 10-month low on Thursday.
"While I know we all have many questions, we must be very cautious and measured in our commentary at this sensitive time in the process. To reiterate, our immediate focus is the welfare of our staff and their families," Chairman Robert Rankin told the meeting.
"We accept (China's) jurisdiction and we respect their laws. However, at this time there have been no formal charges laid against our staff, the investigation continues and they are of course entitled to a presumption of innocence."
It was too early to determine what impact the arrests would have on Crown's business, he added, amid fears it will hurt the company's ability to attract Chinese VIP gamblers to its Australian casinos, including a A$2 billion ($1.54 billion) resort under construction on Sydney's harborside.