• Packer’s Consolidated Press sells 35 million shares in Crown
  • Sale is part of ‘financing and capital management strategy’

Billionaire James Packer sold a A$448 million ($338 million) stake in Crown Resorts Ltd., reducing his ownership of the Australian casino operator to less than 50 percent.

Packer’s privately held investment vehicle, Consolidated Press Holdings Pty, agreed to sell 35 million shares -- about 4.8 percent of Crown -- at A$12.80 apiece, it said in a letter to Crown that was released to the stock exchange Monday. Crown closed at A$13.52 last week.

The shares fell 1.7 percent to A$13.29 at 10:42 a.m. in Sydney trading. Consolidated Press will own about 48.2 percent of Crown after the sale and will remain the biggest shareholder.

The sale comes two months after Crown announced plans to spin off its international investments, including a $2 billion stake in Macau casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd.. Crown is also exploring an initial public offering of 49 percent of a property trust for some of its Australian hotels.

Consolidated Press said in the letter that the sale forms part of its financial and capital management strategy, and the investment company supports Crown’s proposed spin off and IPO. According to the Australian newspaper, the sale follows a review of Consolidated Press’s finances after Packer’s A$1.25 billion settlement last year with his sister Gretel Packer.

Consolidated Press “remains deeply committed to Crown resorts and is excited about the future for the company,” it said in the letter.

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