Belle Corp, a joint venture partner in the City of Dreams Manila casino resort, has confirmed it has had preliminary discussions with owners of land near the City of Dreams Manila site. The developer might use such land near Manila Bay (pictured) to expand the casino resort if discussions are successful, it said in a filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
Philippine newspaper Manila Standard reported on Monday that one potential acquisition could be the land bank owned by the Wenceslao Group, which was originally planned for development as the Alphaland Bay City in joint venture with Alphaland Corp. The latter recently transferred its stake in the project to London-based private equity fund Ashmore Group.
Belle also owns a 4,000 square metre (43,056 sq feet) lot beside City of Dreams Manila, which could also be considered for possible expansion, the Manila Standard reported.
“We confirm that Belle management have had preliminary discussions with owners of land near the City of Dreams Manila site for the purchase or lease of their property, on which we may potentially expand the City of Dreams Manila integrated resort,” Belle said in Tuesday’s filing.
The discussions however are still at early stages, “and no land acquisition transaction is anticipated to close in the near future,” it added. The company did not reveal more details.
The expansion would have to be approved by the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor). The project is part of Pagcor’s Entertainment City, a collection of casino resorts being built at Manila Bay in the Philippines.
In Tuesday’s statement, Belle also confirmed it is looking into increasing public ownership in Sinophil Corp, the unit that holds its gaming investments.
Willy Ocier, Belle’s vice chairman and also chairman of Sinophil, GGRAsia on Monday that it was “in our [Belle and Sinophil's] thinking” to have a widened public float for Sinophil prior to the first phase opening of City of Dreams Manila. That is expected later this year.
“We feel it’s not necessary to own 90 percent. We think 67 to 70 percent is good enough for us,” Mr Ocier added.
On Tuesday, the company said a final decision “has not yet been made”. “The timing and extent of such sale by Belle of Sinophil shares is therefore still uncertain at this time,” it added.
City of Dreams Manila is being developed in partnership with Melco Crown (Philippines) Resorts Corp.
In Belle’s 2013 annual report, the firm said that phase one of the City of Dreams Manila site contained “approximately 17 hectares [42 acres] of building space out of a total of about 30 hectares planned for the resort”. The actual footprint of phase one is 6.2 hectares according to the report and to a press release by Pagcor.
Belle also said in its 2013 audited report that phase two would contain approximately 13 hectares of building space, “which will include, retail space, food and beverage outlets, as well as other non-gaming entertainment features”.
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"If the [Macau casino] concessions are put up for bid, there will also be a lot of giant Chinese companies, some having nothing to do with gaming, which would like to take over these enormously successful casinos”
Professor emeritus at Whittier Law School in California, in the United States, and a visiting professor at University of Macau