THE M3: GENTING TAKES STAKE IN ECHO; SANDS BEIJING PAYMENT; PAGCOR

The Macau Metro Monitor, June 8, 2012

GENTING TAKES STAKE IN AUSTRALIA'S ECHO, SPARKS TAKEOVER TALK The Australian, Reuters

According to the Australian, Genting Singapore has taken a 4.9% stake in Echo.  Echo runs Sydney's Star casino and Jupiter's on the Gold Coast of Australia.  This raises the prospect of a battle for control over the $3 billion Australian casino company with billionaire rival James Packer.  Packer, who wants to use Echo's license to build a new casino complex in Sydney to attract more Asian high-rollers, has been agitating for change at Echo after building a 10% stake in the company.  Genting said the total value of its investment in publicly quoted securities was S$298 million (US$234 million).

Also, Echo's Chairman, John Story, has resigned, bowing to a destabilizing campaign run by Packer.  A full takeover would cost more than A$3 billion (US$2.96 billion) and both Packer and Genting would face tough regulatory scrutiny.

SANDS SOLICITED FOR PAYMENTS BY BEIJING OFFICIAL WSJ

Leonel Alves, an outside legal adviser to LVS with political connections in China and Macau, said in emails he was approached by “someone high ranking in Beijing” to pay $300 million to settle a lawsuit and win long-awaited approval to sell a luxury-apartment complex in Macau.  The Journal, which reviewed the emails from late 2009, reported that LVS, which was reeling from the financial crisis and under a mountain of debt, was looking for a way to sell a complex it valued at $1.4 billion but in an area only designated for casino and hotel projects.  That designation meant a sale would require government approval.

LVS said in a statement that “at no time has there ever been any suggestion that the company made any improper payments or received any improper benefits.”  Alves, responding to the Journal by text message, said any claims that he suggested bribing government officials were “totally untrue,” and that “nothing had happened.”

PAGCOR PRIVATIZATION TO BENEFIT MACAU: COMPANY OFFICIALS Macau Business

State-owned gaming company and regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, or Pagcor, is facing a proposal to be privatised.  But company officials say that would lead to a loss of competitive edge for the country’s gaming industry, which would instead benefit Macau, Singapore, and Malaysia.


A bill to privatize Pagcor and instead create a new body with only regulatory powers has been filed in the Philippine Senate by pro-administration Senator Ralph Recto.  The bill also proposes a significant tax hike – casinos would be obliged to pay 5% in gross revenue tax plus an additional 50% tax on aggregate gross earnings.  Pagcor officials say the company currently only charges from 2 to 15% on gross gaming revenue for non-high roller gamers; 15% on high rollers and junket tables; and 25% on slot machines.