A Hong Kong-listed company controlled by Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd co-chairman Lawrence Ho Yau Lung (pictured) is coordinating investment for a new casino project in a part of the former Soviet Union, according to a filing on Thursday.
The latest project has one investor – Firich Enterprises Co Ltd, a Taiwan-listed maker of electronic gaming machines – that is also putting money into an existing Lawrence Ho-backed casino scheme near Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East.
The latest casino venture is in the republic of Georgia in the Caucasus.
Mr Ho, who has a core business developing casino resorts in Macau and the Philippines – via Melco Crown, his joint venture with Australia’s Crown Ltd – is developing a track record for independently using smaller listed vehicles to make more modest bets on other casino markets including Russia and Spain.
In the latest deal to be announced, Hong Kong-listed MelcoLot Ltd – controlled by Mr Ho and which is a technology supplier to mainland China’s regulated lottery providers – will sell a part of a wholly owned subsidiary to Taiwanese and local Georgian investors to raise US$50 million for a casino project in Georgia.
MelcoLot, a unit of Mr Ho’s Melco International Development Ltd, has a wholly owned subsidiary called Express Wealth Enterprise Ltd set up to hold the licence for a proposed casino project in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. The Express Wealth entity is what is known to investors as a special purpose vehicle or ‘SPV’.
MelcoLot – listed on the Growth Enterprise Market in Hong Kong – will sell 5,530 new shares of Express Wealth to Firich, which in turn will allocate them to two other Taiwanese firms – Taiwan-listed Rich Development Co Ltd and Taiwan-incorporated Syncmold Enterprise Corp. MelcoLot will also sell 200 new shares to Oz Gaming Georgia LLC, a food and beverage and entertainment firm in Georgia that has been working with the government to develop gaming regulation.
A filing on Thursday from Melco International said: “MelcoLot will be responsible for the management and operations of SPV, as well as maintaining relations with… government officials in Georgia.”
Upon completion of the deal, Express Wealth will be 42.7 percent held by MelcoLot, 31.62 percent by Firich, 15.35 percent by Rich Development, 8.33 percent by Syncmold and 2 percent by Oz Gaming.
MelcoLot is also being used as a vehicle to bid for a casino licence in a real estate development called BCN World in Barcelona, Spain.
Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed firm controlled by Mr Ho, announced in mid-September that phase one of a US$700 million casino project in Primorye in the Russian Far East in which it is involved will only be completed around April 2015.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China