MANILA, Philippines – Negotiations on the joint venture deal between Gokongwei-led JG Summit Holdings Inc. and the group of controversial Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada are still ongoing.
This despite the bribery allegations currently hounding the Okada and the state casino regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), the focus of ongoing negotiations in Nevada, Tokyo and Manila.
“We have an exclusivity arrangement. We are negotiating with the Okada group regarding a possible investment in the Entertainment City. We will continue to conduct the discussion in the most transparent manner...We're in joint venture discussions,” said JG Summit president and CEO Lance Gokongwei on Thursday, January 17.
"There's no contract yet...There’s no definite time frame [to seal deal]. We’re working very hard on it. At this point I cannot indicate a date. Perhaps in the next 60 days,” he told reporters at the sideline of the launch of long haul flights of JG Summit's airline unit Cebu Pacific Air.
On December 12, 2012, Okada-led Universal Entertainment disclosed to the Tokyo Stock Exchange that it had struck a deal with JG Summit's real estate unit, Robinsons Land Corp (RLC), on a gaming and real estate partnership in the government’s upcoming gaming hub Pagcor City.
Okada-led Universal Entertainment is one of the 4 groups Pagcor awarded licenses to to build and operate individual multi-billion gaming and entertainment complexes at the 20-hectare complex in the reclaimed land in Manila Bay.
Gokongwei stressed they were not aware of the bribery allegations before they signed the deal to pursue real estate operations with the Okada group.
“I had no prior knowledge to this," he said, referring to the alleged illicit payments by Okada-led Universal Entertainment to former Pagcor officials in 2010.
"The incidents we are discussing occurred 5 to 6 years ago so we had no prior knowledge on it...I never met Mr Okada until last year," he added.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents are reportedly in Manila to do leg work on the investigation that would determine if Okada's group's license to operate in Nevada would be voided.
“All our discussions with the Okada group have transpired after the licenses were awarded. So in summary we have not been contacted by the FBI and don’t anticipate them to do so,” he added.
Real estate venture
The deal would allow RLC to acquire a minority stake in its wholly owned Tiger Resorts, Leisure and Entertainment Inc. and a majority stake in Eagle I Land Holdings Inc. RLC will be responsible for developing the commercial facilities, a budget hotel and residential facilities in the project.
“What we are anticipating is that the Robinsons Land Corp. will have the majority in the property on which the casino, hotels, retail operations will be set. And we are exploring a joint venture on the operating side where Okada will have a majority stake of the company,” said Gokongwei.
The Nevada gaming regulator is currently probing the estimated US$30 million total money transfers from Okada's companies in the US to the companies controlled by Rodolfo Soriano, a former Pagcor consultant.
Philippine officials from the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation have also commenced their probe.
In a recent hearing at the House of Representatives, officials of Tiger Entertainment told Filipino lawmakers that the money transfers did not get the nod of the company board and that cases have been filed against the executives who authorized the remittances.
Current Pagcor officials said the franchise granted to the Okada group will be recalled if the allegations are proven true.
The deal is subject to comprehensive due diligence, Gokongwei said. - Rappler.com