Iris Capital to Take Over Aquis Entertainment’s Casino Canberra in AU$63-Million Acquisition Deal

Daniel Williams

The managing director and CEO of Iris Capital, Sam Arnaout, has managed to surpass the acquisition offer made by the Gravanis brothers in the ongoing competition to take over Casino Canberra from Aquis Entertainment. As a result, the Rich Lister is set to add another asset to his hospitality empire worth AU$5 billion.

Earlier this week – on July 12th – Aquis Entertainment, which is linked to Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung, officially announced that it had given the nod to a revised offer of Iris Capital. The deal, which will see Mr Arnaout’s company take over all the shares in the subsidiary that currently owns and operates Casino Canberra, is estimated at a total of AU$63 million.

The enhanced offer of Iris Capital followed a fierce bidding war of the company with the owners of Oscars Hotels, Bill and Mario Gravanis, who boosted the original acquisition bid of AU$52 million that they made in May 2022 to AU$58.2 million only a week ago in the hope to have it officially approved by Aquis.

After that, however, Iris Capital made its own offer. The original takeover bid was estimated to AU$60 million and the company then boosted the proposal to AU$63 million to secure its victory and get full rights over the casino property and the operating business. According to reports, the latter has been facing certain financial difficulties under the weight of an AU$33-million loan that Mr Fung took following the reduction of the casino’s revenues as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns and trading restrictions.

Iris Capital Outbuids the Gravanis Brother’s Offers for Casino Canberra

Bill and Mario Gravanis, also known as the Gravanis brothers, currently own over 30 hotels and pubs, including the Oakwood Hotel, Palm Bay Resort, and Novotel Sydney Brighton Beach. However, they were unable to come up as worthy competitors to the financial firepower of Iris Capital, run by Mr Arnaout, whose company owns one of the largest private hotel and pub portfolios in the country. To date, Iris Capital also owns a number of development business undertaking projects in Newcastle, Sydney and the Gold Coast.

The approval of the Casino Canberra deal would bring Iris Capital’s investment into new hospitality assets of about AU$220 million, following its takeover of the 5 Alice Springs-based properties (2 accommodation hotels and 3 pubs) for a total of AU$75 million, and Sydney-based Strathfield Hotel for approximately AU$80 million. The company is also spending about AU$100 million on the renovation of the Lasseters Hotel Casino in Alice Springs, including the addition of a new hotel to the property it purchased for a total of AU$105 million in 2021.

The Casino Canberra acquisition will have to be approved by Aquis Canberra Holdings, which is linked to Mr Fung and currently holds 88.5% of Aquis. Furthermore, it will be subject to approval by the competent federal and state casino and liquor licence regulatory bodies.

If a superior offer for the casino property is made, there is an agreement allowing Iris Capital to make a counter-offer. Sam Arnaout’s company is also entitled to an AU$1-million break fee in case the recently announced deal is not finalised.

Olivia Cole

Olivia Cole has worked as a journalist for several years now. Over the last couple of years she has been engaged in writing about a number of industries and has developed an interest for the gambling market in the UK.

Daniel Williams

Author: Dale Alvarez