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SkyCity agrees to buy Queenstown's Wharf Casino from Lasseters for $5 mln

Monday 20th May 2013

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SkyCity Entertainment Group has agreed to buy Queenstown's Wharf Casino for $5 million from Malaysia's Lasseters, adding 74 electronic gaming machines and six gaming tables to its existing operations in the resort town.

The deal is subject to Commerce Commission and Gambling Commission approvals. The company moved to 100 percent ownership of Queenstown Casino in December, buying out Skyline Enterprises' 40 percent stake for $5 million as it looks to capitalise on demand from its high-roller overseas gamblers.

"Queenstown is already a very popular destination for our overseas VIP guests," chief executive Nigel Morrison said in a statement. "The purchase of the Wharf Casino is part of our strategy of increasing our presence in Queenstown."

SkyCity sees Queenstown as "an area of significant potential for continued tourism development" and the company is also part of a group that is the preferred bidder to build the Queenstown Convention Centre. SkyCity would be the operator of the convention centre built by an investment group including Ngai Tahu Property and Wellington-based investment bank Morrison & Co.

The Wharf Casino announcement comes a week after SkyCity agreed to develop a $402 million convention centre in Auckland for the government in exchange for being granted increased gambling concessions and a 27-year extension of its Auckland casino licence.

Shares of SkyCity last traded at $4.37 and have climbed 25 percent in the past year, outpacing a 21 percent gain for the top 10 stocks on the NZX. It is rated a 'buy' based on a Reuters poll of eight analysts, with a median price target of $4.69.

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