“Ouch” is not a word that’s on the usage list at James Packer’s expanding PBL Empire, but it should be after the two rejections suffered overnight in Britain and Russia.

There is now considerable doubt about all those bullish reviews and forecasts about PBL and its share price after these decisions.

PBL shares shed 7c today by 11am to $19.63 after falling as low as $19.52 on the news. They had fallen 7c on Tuesday.

The question now is, did PBL shareholders agree to a pig in a poke when they okayed the purchase of the half interest in Aspinalls held privately by James Packer last year? The deal was ticked off at the AGM and Packer received around 5.4 million PBL shares at a price of $17 each for the half interest.

Packer’s extra shares are still well in the money by around $14 million but what does PBL now do with its’ half interest in Aspinalls now that it has been all but locked out of the UK?

Russia is a bit of a quagmire and if PBL and Packer lobby against the new rules, will there be a reaction from the well-connected Soviet business establishment and associated interests in the Government, like there has been in the oil industry which is being re-nationalised by the Putin administration?

The knockbacks also raise the question of what PBL will do with the $4.3 billion it raised from the sale of half of PBL Media to the CVC private equity group.

PBL had already been knocked back for the second Singapore Casino licence and has successfully involved itself in Macau and financed its expansion through the float of a new company on NASDAQ in the US.

That company, PBL-Melco was the subject of a ‘sell’ recommendation from analysts in the London-based office of Citigroup this week, which also put a ‘hold’ recommendation on PBL’s partner, Melco.

Perhaps PBL could become interested in the media once again?

Peter Fray

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