A Macau court case began on Wednesday into whether a company led by a Taiwan businessman is entitled to MOP96.45 billion (US$12.06 billion) for what it claims was its role in United States-based casino group Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS) getting a Macau gaming licence.
The morning session was spent debating when Asian American Entertainment Corp Ltd and the U.S. group actually severed ties.
Las Vegas Sands’ legal team claimed a letter, sent to Macau’s then-chief executive, Edmund Ho Hau Wah, showed that the casino group’s relationship with Asian American had already ended on January 15, 2002. It was in February of that year that the Macau government announced the results of its licence-tender process.
The case, in the Court of First Instance, was first filed in Macau in 2012, but has faced multiple delays. It was brought by Asian American, led by Taiwan entrepreneur Marshall Hao Shi-sheng, against Las Vegas Sands units Venetian Macau Ltd, LVS (Nevada) International Holdings Inc, Las Vegas Sands LLC, and Venetian Casino Resort LLC.
Asian American is claiming compensation for damages resulting from the alleged breach of agreements during Las Vegas Sands’ successful bid in 2002 for a Macau casino licence.
Initially, Las Vegas Sands was in a partnership for a Macau venture with Chinese entrepreneur Lui Che Woo, via an entity called Galaxy Casino SA. But in December 2002, the Macau government allowed an amendment to the Galaxy entity’s concession contract, so that a subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands was granted a sub-concession spun off the original Galaxy licence.
The amount claimed by Asian American is said to represent allegedly-lost profits for Asian American from 2004 to 2018. Las Vegas Sands opened its first Macau casino, Sands Macao (pictured), in 2004.
Asian American is also reserving its right to claim for lost profits up to 2022, the year in which the current Macau gaming licence of Sands China Ltd, the current Macau operating entity of Las Vegas Sands, is due to expire.
Sands China said in its 2020 annual report, filed on March 25 with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, that it disputes not only its obligation to Asian American, but also the size of the award the latter is claiming, and “intends to defend this matter vigorously”.
Asian American is being represented by Jorge Menezes, of FCLaw Lawyers & Private Notaries. Las Vegas Sands and its units are being represented by Luis Cavaleiro de Ferreira, of CFS – Luís Cavaleiro de Ferreira, Ricardo Silva & Associados.
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”The notion that somehow the Macau gaming companies can be used by China as negotiating pawns in a geopolitical negotiation with the U.S. is definitely without merit”
Vitaly Umansky, Louis Li and Kelsey Zhu
Analysts at brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd