Angela Leong On Kei (pictured), an executive director of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd, told local media on Monday she thought it “inevitable” that the fire on Saturday at the Grand Lisboa Palace construction site on Cotai would contribute to a delay in the progress of the project.
In previous statements the firm had been targeting a second-half 2018 launch for the new casino resort, but that timetable had already been questioned in a mid-August note from brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd, which said “early 2019″ was more likely. SJM Holdings’ Macau casino concession is due to expire in 2020.
In her Monday comments, Ms Leong – fourth consort of SJM Holdings’ founder Stanley Ho Hung Sun – mentioned the possibility of a phased opening of the firm’s first Cotai property, though she added that was not the solution the firm “had hoped for”.
The fire reportedly broke out on Saturday night and was put out by early Sunday morning. The latest blaze – described by Macau’s Judiciary Police as a possible case of arson – was the fourth on-site fire since 2015, according to local media.
A blaze in March this year was also investigated as possible arson, said the Judiciary Police at the time. Typhoon Hato – the worst tropical cyclone to hit Macau in 53 years – also caused delays for the city’s new casino sites and other construction projects.
“I believe these typhoon disasters and fires have already impacted the works of the [Grand Lisboa Palace] site,” Ms Leong said on the sidelines of a company event on Monday, when asked whether the latest blaze would delay the progress of the HKD36-billion (US$4.6-billion) Cotai project.
“We’re yet to receive a report on the conditions of the construction site, so I cannot report to you for certain,” she added, “but I believe a delay [to the project] is inevitable.”
Ms Leong stated on Monday that her company was not aware of whether the police investigation into the March blaze had been concluded.
Work on the Grand Lisboa Palace site had already been suspended by the Macau government for 44 days this summer after the death of a worker on June 18. The work only restarted on August 2, with Ambrose So Shu Fai, SJM Holdings’ chief executive, stating that the firm would “readjust the construction programme and try to catch up” with its stated target of a second-half 2018 launch.
Speaking to media on Monday, Ms Leong said the firm was still assessing the damage caused by the Saturday blaze.
“We will see what kind of main facilities [at Grand Lisboa Palace] can be opened first…but a partial opening is not what we had hoped for. We did wish to have all of the facilities opened at the same time,” Ms Leong stated.
“This [launch of Grand Lisboa Palace] awaits more study – together with the reports compiled [on the Cotai project] – at the board meeting to be held in a couple of days,” she noted.
Ms Leong was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of a new skincare product brand called “Canvas” at the “JA Avenue”, a retail area at the SJM Holdings-licensed Jai Alai casino complex on the city’s peninsula.
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Lionel Leong Vai Tac
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance