Suncity Group Holdings Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed vehicle controlled by Macau casino junket investor Alvin Chau Cheok Wa (pictured in a file photo), has reportedly acquired an equity position in Russian casino operator Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd.
The information was included in a press release issued on Sunday by privately-held Suncity Group, also controlled by Mr Chau.
The Suncity brand is best known for supplying high-value Chinese casino gamblers to the Macau market, but the listed company – which does not include any profit streams from Macau gambling junkets in its filed accounts – has been increasing its gaming investments into markets beyond Greater China. That is both in terms of new-build resorts such as Hoiana in Vietnam, due to open later this year; and in terms of deals to manage third-party-controlled properties in other markets, such as Cambodia.
“Suncity Group Holdings has successfully acquired partial stakes of Summit Ascent and will participate in the second phase of Tigre de Cristal Resort and Casino in Russia,” stated the press release.
The document made no reference to the size of Suncity Group Holdings’ stake in Summit Ascent, nor did it mention when the acquisition took place. The announcement followed the December appointment of Andrew Lo Kai Bong as a non-executive director of the Russian casino operator. Mr Lo is also an executive director of Suncity Group Holdings.
Summit Ascent’s casino resort Tigre de Cristal, near the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok, has been marketed by its promoter as within short flying time of a large swathe of North Asia, a region populated by consumers keen on casino gambling.
Tigre de Cristal is currently the only casino property in operation in the Primorye Integrated Entertainment Zone (IEZ), a casino development area located 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Vladivostok. The Primorye IEZ is being promoted by Primorsky Krai Development Corp, a government-owned company under the Department of Tourism of Primorsky.
Tigre de Cristal is planning a “big expansion” via the opening of phase two of Tigre de Cristal, said Summit Ascent’s chief operating officer for Russia, Stylianos Tsifetakis, in a recent interview with GGRAsia. The firm is targeting an opening in late 2020 or early 2021. The entire second phase has a price tag of US$500 million, according to Summit Ascent.
In late December 2017, Asian casino investor Lawrence Ho Yau Lung stepped down as chairman and non-executive director of Summit Ascent. The move followed Mr Ho’s decision to sell off his 17.4-percent stake in the firm. A disclosure on the matter didn’t mention the reason for the disposal.
Next target: Paradise Busan
In its release, Suncity Group also said Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings planned to “acquire partial stakes of Paradise Casino Busan in South Korea”. The property is located in the Busan port city on the southeast coast of the Korean peninsula.
Suncity Group Holdings stated last week that a wholly-owned subsidiary had signed a non-legally binding memo about possible cooperation with Paradise Co Ltd, an operator in South Korea of foreigner-only casinos. The memorandum of understanding related to Paradise Casino Busan, said the firm in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. At the time, there was no mention of plans to buy an equity stake in Paradise Casino Busan.
In its Sunday press release – focused on Suncity Group’s 12th anniversary gala dinner, which took place on February 22 in Macau – Suncity Group stated it was focused on expanding its presence in key domestic and overseas markets.
“Last year, Suncity Group fully engaged on the world stage by setting up numerous VIP clubs in Macau, Cambodia, the Philippines and Australia,” the release stated.
Suncity Group said it was rolling out this year a new mobile phone application – called Sun Travel App – to offer patrons access to travel information. The group added its membership system and VIP loyalty programmes had also been revamped.
“Suncity Group will launch a new signature brand ‘Sun Kitchen’ in Australia and further develop it as restaurant chain which encapsulates gourmet delicacies from around the globe,” the release added.
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Senior vice president of investor relations at casino operator Las Vegas Sands