Is Australia’s suitability bar set too high?

By Bill Brown* Two recent high-profile examples in Australia of deals not proceeding due to regulatory delays raise questions as to whether the approval process is taking too long, or whether the bar is set too high.  An attempt by Tony Fung’s Aquis Group to buy the Reef Casino Hotel in Cairns failed because Queensland casino regulatory approvals were not obtained in time. The deal was publicly announced in February 2014 and more than nine months later, it lapsed. The reason is that Aquis had not responded to requests by the Queensland casino regulator for interviews and information in a timely way. Notwithstanding this, Aquis ultimately obtained approval to acquire the Canberra Casino. The second recent example was Genting Hong Kong Limited’s application for approval to acquire up to 25 percent of the shares in Echo Entertainment Limited, which has been with the New South Wales casino regulator for more than two...

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