Billionaire James Packer’s Crown Resorts Ltd. plunged in Sydney trading after Chinese authorities detained 18 of the casino company’s employees including the head of international high-roller operations.
Shares in Melbourne-based Crown tumbled 10.5 percent to A$11.59 at 11:06 a.m., set for the biggest decline in almost eight years. As the detentions sparked concern of a fresh crackdown on wooing Chinese gamblers to Australia, Sydney-based Star Entertainment Group Ltd. fell 5.2 percent. In New Zealand, SkyCity Entertainment Group Ltd. fell 6 percent.
China’s government said in February last year it was focusing on overseas casino operators that have set up offices to attract Chinese citizens to gamble abroad. More than one third of Crown’s revenue at its Australian resorts comes from international visitors, predominantly those from mainland China. In Sydney, the company is building a high-roller casino resort at Barangaroo on the harbor foreshore.
“It suggests there’s going to be some kind of crackdown,” said Daniel Mueller, an analyst at Forager Funds Management Pty in Sydney. “Any setback could jeopardize returns on Barangaroo.’’
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Australians had been detained for suspected involvement in gambling crimes, according to the Australian Financial Review.
Jason O’Connor, the head of Crown’s VIP International team, is among those being questioned by Chinese authorities, Crown said in a statement. The company hasn’t been able to speak with the staff and is working with Australia’s foreign ministry to make contact with the group, it said.
“Crown is staying in close contact with and is providing support to the families of our employees in China and Australia,” it said in the statement. Crown said it hasn’t been told why the employees have been detained.
Australia’s foreign ministry is aware of reports of the possible detention of a number of Crown employees across China overnight on Oct. 13 to Oct. 14, including three Australians, it said in an e-mailed statement. Chinese authorities have three days in which to notify of the detention of Australians, according to the terms of a bilateral consular treaty, it said.