Australia's PBL Is Near US Gaming Deal

Australia's Publishing & Broadcasting said it was close to agreeing a major North American gaming acquisition, and was still considering two other deals.

PBL, which has A$2.7 billion (US$2.4 billion) set aside for the three acquisitions, said on Wednesday it expected to complete due diligence and contract negotiations on the potential deal in the next two to three weeks.

However, any purchase would be subject to regulatory approvals which may take 12 to 18 months, it said.

An Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday that PBL was in talks to buy Harrah's Entertainment's Chester casino in the U.S. northeastern state of Pennsylvania.

PBL declined to name the business, but said it was in North America. PBL would wholly-own the business if the acquisition was successful.

"If the purchase is completed, it is expected that the transaction would be immediately accretive to earnings," PBL said in a statement.

Shareholders in PBL, controlled by Australia's richest man, James Packer, vote Friday on a plan to split its media and gaming interests into two listed companies.

PBL's scheme booklet outlining the terms of the split already flagged the acquisition last month. It said PBL had A$2.7 billion to spend on offshore gaming opportunities and due diligence had started on one potential deal.

On Wednesday, PBL said most of the cash reserves from its Crown gaming operations would be deployed if the three deals went ahead.

The Australian Financial Review newspaper said Crown had held detailed talks with the owners of a casino in Pennsylvania, most likely to be the Chester casino.

It also cited talk Crown had examined an investment in the nearby Meadows Racetrack and Casino, part owned by gaming magnate Bill Paulos and private equity firm Oaktree Capital Management.

Packer, who took control of PBL following the death of his father, is diversifying away from traditional media investments to focus on more lucrative gaming assets.

PBL has a casinos joint venture in Macau and in April bought a stake in a Las Vegas casino developer and in Canadian casinos.

PBL will house its casino and international gaming assets in a company called Crown under the plan to be voted on Friday.

A separate company called Consolidated Media Holdings will include PBL's stake in pay-TV business Foxtel and a 25 percent stake in PBL Media which owns an Australian TV network and magazines.

The remaining 75 percent of PBL Media is held by private equity firm CVC.