First Natural Foods Holdings Ltd – a previously dormant Hong Kong-listed company that in March completed a HK$400 million (US$51.6 million) investment in Macau junket room investor Hengsheng Group Ltd – said on Wednesday that it doesn’t yet know if it will win a bid to build a US$2-billion casino resort on the Pacific island of Saipan (pictured).
The company’s stock price fell nearly 28 percent on Wednesday, to close at 57 HK cents (0.73 US cents). Its current market capitalisation is HK$5.28 billion according to data from Bloomberg.
Wednesday’s price correction came after the firm responded to reports of unusual movements on Tuesday in the price and trading of its stocks. It added it was not aware of any reasons for that.
It did say in its filing dated Tuesday – but only released to the market before trading on Wednesday morning – that a newspaper, the Saipan Tribune, had reported on June 13 that as of June 12, the firm was one of two applicants “still in the running for a licence to exclusively develop a minimum US$2-billion integrated casino resort on Saipan”.
First Natural, again quoting the newspaper, said that the local Lottery Commission chair Sixto Igisomar had indicated the licensing issue would be discussed at a meeting on Thursday, but that this meeting was “not likely” to make a final decision on the matter.
First Natural stated in its latest filing: “In this connection, the applicant has been seeking guidance and confirmation from the relevant authorities in order to ascertain the date of release of the application result, nevertheless, as of the date of this announcement, no formal reply has been received.”
Saipan, covering 115.4 square kilometres (44.6 sq. miles) is the biggest of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific. The local government is seeking to develop the economy via gambling tourism.
The shareholders of First Natural approved on May 20 a company change of name to Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd.
In November last year First Natural announced in a filing it wanted to acquire a 5-percent share in the profit stream of Macau casino VIP room investor Hengsheng for HK$400 million in the form a convertible note. The deal – with the note at zero coupon –, was confirmed to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on March 19.
According to a filing on November 14, 2013, controlling shares in First Natural were acquired for about HK$100 million by Yu Ming Investment Management Ltd on behalf of Inventive Star Ltd. The latter firm’s director was listed as Cui Lujie, a 32-year-old businesswoman. According to a November 27 filing, the sole owner of the shares in the Macau junket entity – officially listed as Hang Seng Sociedade Unipessoal Limitada – was Ms Cui’s older brother Cui Limei.
Yu Ming Investment Management is wholly-owned by Hong Kong listed Allied Group Ltd according to the English-language website of Yu Ming Group. The same website lists Ambrose So Shu Fai, chief executive of Macau casino developer SJM Holdings Ltd, as an independent non-executive director of Yu Ming Group.
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"The Hong Kong protests may hurt Macau gross gaming revenue by about mid-single-digit (i.e., half of maximum visitation exposure), which should fade away gradually as people will find alternative ways to visit Macau”
DS Kim, Jeremy An and Christine Wang
Analysts at brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd