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Hong Kong Tycoon Bets Big in Manila

6 December 2004

PHILIPPINES – As reported by the Business World Online: "Construction workers stir clouds of dust as they frantically prepare the 32-storey Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila for its grand launch early next year in Malate, a top Manila entertainment district.

"The complex will be the 14th casino partly owned by state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), but this one has attracted money and attention that far outstrips Pagcor's previous ventures.

"Hong Kong tycoon Cheng Yu-tung bought the hotel and 40% of the adjoining casino two years ago, prompting speculation his long-time business partner, Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho, may invest and add the Philippines to his stable of Asian casinos.

"Asia's $14-billion gambling industry is scrambling to tap the rising wealth of Chinese tourists and residents in the region. Casino complexes have been proposed in Singapore and Thailand, and foreign gaming companies are making new investments in Macau.

"The Philippines, with a total public sector debt of $105 billion or nearly 140% of GDP, is eager for investments and the tax revenues gambling provides. Its casino monopoly Pagcor is its biggest source of state income after taxes.

"…Consultants estimate the Philippines, which has annual gaming revenues of $400 million, ranks third in Asia, trailing Macau, which is the only legal gambling haven in China, and Malaysia.

"…Mr. Cheng's ties to Mr. Ho are close. The two hold stakes in privately owned STDM, which runs most of the casinos in Macau. Mr. Cheng is also a non-executive director of Shun Tak Holdings Ltd., Mr. Ho's listed flagship in Hong Kong…"

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