HK conglomerate enters PH casino biz

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    A Hong Kong conglomerate unveiled plans on Tuesday to enter the fast-growing gambling market in the Philippines, with a deal to operate a casino and resort in the country’s version of the Las Vegas gaming strip.

    Hong Kong’s Suncity Group Holdings Ltd. said it has acquired a majority stake in the Suntrust Home Developers Inc., a unit of Megaworld Corp., which plans to co-develop and then manage and operate a five-star hotel and casino in Manila.

    Suntrust said it signed a deal to develop and exclusively operate the main hotel casino portion of an integrated resort in the capital.

    Suncity meanwhile said it is increasing its authorized capital to P23 billion from the old P3 billion to accommodate the entry of the Hong Kong companyy.

    The entry of Suncity dilutes the 42.48 percent stake of Megaworld Corp., in the company down to 34 percent, with both Suncity through Fortune Noble Ltd. and Megaworld subscribing to 5 billion new shares of Suntrust. Suncity will hold 51 percent.

    Suntrust would operate the casino and a hotel with at least 400 rooms, around 400 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines for both mass market and high rollers.

    Suntrust will lease the site for the casino-hotel from the developers of the larger Westside City Resorts World project, including Genting Hong Kong Ltd, which will also include a retail centre and residential apartments.

    As of end-June, the Westside developers had spent P96.5 billion on the project that will start operations before 2023.

    The Suncity-Suntust deal marks the Hong Kong group’s first step in tapping Manila’s gaming industry, which has grown rapidly over the past decade, attracting foreign entrants and generating tax revenue.

    “Outside of Macau the most decent city for gaming is Manila because of the scale, three international brands and facilities, airport. Quite convenient,” Andrew Lo, executive director at Suncity, told Reuters.

    Alvin Chau, the founder of Suncity, has grown the company from operating a high roller table in Wynn Macau’s casino in 2007 to a sprawling conglomerate with businesses ranging from property to autos and thousands of employees.

    The industry includes 10 private casino firms operating 1,785 gaming tables and 10,799 electronic gaming machines, according to government data. The state gaming regulator Pagcor also operates several casinos totalling 477 tables and 9,751 gaming machines.

    The Philippines’ gross gaming revenues rose 14 percent to P120.48 billion in the first half, government data showed. – Reuters