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Packer Joins Forces with Ho

16 November 2004

AUSTRALIA – As reported by the Australia Age: "Kerry Packer has joined forces with one of Asia's most colourful businessmen, casino tycoon Stanley Ho, China correspondent Hamish McDonald reports.

"Stanley Ho is and has been Macau for more than 40 years; his Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macao group's casinos, hotels, retail stores, real estate and jetfoil operations account for two-thirds of the former Portuguese colony's GDP.

"The tall, saturnine Eurasian has likewise been one of the most enigmatic and feared figures in the neighbouring former British colony of Hong Kong, where matching operations (minus the gambling) are mostly bundled into the listed Shun Tak group.

"…But lately, the 82-year-old's empire seems to have entered a twilight zone. Handed back to China in 1999, Macau decided to end the gambling monopoly STDM subsidiary Sociedade de Jogos de Macao had enjoyed since 1962. Two new entrants - Galaxy, owned by Hong Kong's K.Wah construction group, and Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts - were given 20-year licences alongside Ho's outfit.

"…In June, Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd's James Packer and Crown casino chief Rowan Craigie were spotted in Macau on a recce visit. While Galaxy and Wynns said they were not discussing sub-concessions with PBL, Ho's office was evasive.

"PBL's investment of $168 million in the Park Hyatt hotel and casino, which is being developed by Ho's Melco International Development, gives it only a 28 per cent share in the venture. Under the deal, Ho will retain 60 per cent of all ventures in China, which the now Beijing-attuned Ho would define as including Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as the mainland

"…PBL investors could be in for a scary ride in the effort to bring Macau and its surrounding Chinese market into an unfamiliar American-style era where gambling is mixed up with luxurious hotels, lavish food, and star entertainment…"

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