Melco Crown goes backdoor to list in PH

MANILA, Philippines - Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., a casino venture between billionaire James Packer and a son of gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, announced that its Philippine units will acquire a shell company about to delist from the local exchange.

In a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on December 7, Melco, which has partnered with Belle Corp owned by the Philippines' richest man, disclosed that it will buy 93.06% of Manchester International Holdings Unlimited Corp., a pharmaceuticals and property management firm, for P1.259 billion.

The amount includes P1.06 billion liabilities of Manchester, which is among the 25 listed firms that do not comply with the 10% minimum public ownership requirement of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).

“The company’s Philippines operations may, among others, include its Philippine project, a casino, hotel, retail and entertainment complex,” Melco told HKSE, referring to its 50-50 joint-venture agreement with Belle.

“Upon completion, the company currently intends to manage and operate its Philippines businesses through MIH [Manchester],” Melco added.

This deal is then considered as Melco's strategy for a backdoor listing for its Philippine casino operations.

This will also create a 4th PSE-listed casino-related stock play hinged on the success of the 120-hectare Entertainment City casino-entertainment complex in Pasay City. The government is hoping the project will put the Philippines in the gaming map, as regional hubs like Macau and Singapore do.

Aside from Melco, other Entertainment City investors that are listed at the PSE are Bloomberry Resorts Corp., led by businessman Enrique Razon Jr., Alliance Global Group Inc. of Andrew Tan, and Melco's partner, Belle.

Melco will operate the Belle Grande Manila Bay project, which would cost at least $1 billion and will open by the first half of 2014. Melco plans to invest $600 million prior to the project's opening.

Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada's Universal Entertainment are among the 4 business groups granted the right to build and operate at the Entertainment City.

Entertainment City is the integrated tourism and gaming complex of state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) that will rise on a reclaimed area along Manila Bay and near the Manila airport. -