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Premium Leisure Interested to Buy PAGCOR Casinos: Report

April 27, 2023 Philippines Casino & Hotel

The president and chief executive of Philippine-listed Premium Leisure Corp says the firm would be “interested” in acquiring state-owned casinos in the country if the government moves forward with a plan to sell its casino operations.

Armin Antonio Santos was speaking on Tuesday, the day of Premium Leisure’s annual meeting for shareholders, as cited by broadcaster ABS-CBN’s news service.

Alejandro Tengco, chairman and chief executive of the country’s casino regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), had in late March said the body was looking to raise circa PHP80 billion (US$1.44 billion at current exchange rates) from the sale of its public-sector casinos, citing a wish to split regulatory from operating functions.

Premium Leisure is an investor in City of Dreams Manila, a casino resort in the Philippine capital that is run by a unit of Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd. Premium Leisure earns a share – via one of its units – of the gaming revenue generated at City of Dreams Manila.

During the meeting with shareholders, Mr Santos stated Premium Leisure would be interested in joining the bidding if the government decides to sell its Casino Filipino venues.

“If and when Pagcor decides to privatise as mentioned by chairman Alejandro Tengco, we will look into the terms and conditions if we can participate,” said Mr Santos, as cited by ABS-CBN.

The CEO said however that there were no “specific plans yet” on whether the company would prefer to bid on all public-sector casinos or just a few, and whether such effort would be done in partnership with Melco Resorts.

Maybank Securities Inc said in a Tuesday note that any sell-off of state-owned casinos in the Philippines was unlikely to spark a competitive threat to the private-sector casino resorts in Manila’s Entertainment City and beyond. That was because Casino Filipino gaming floors commonly have older equipment and would require significant capital investment, it added.

“We believe buying interest will generally be low, unless valuations become significantly more attractive,” wrote Maybank analyst Miguel Sevidal.

The analyst suggested that Travellers International Hotel Group Inc, which runs casino and leisure complex Newport World Resorts, “may be a candidate, given its plans to set up small casino-hotels in tourism estates”.

“Clark casinos may also bid to expand their regional footprint,” he added.

Premium Leisure’s net income for the first three months of 2023 rose by 109.6 percent year-on-year, to nearly PHP625.4 million, according to a filing this week.

The company is linked to Belle Corp, also a Philippine Stock Exchange-listed company. They are part of local conglomerate SM Investments Corp, a group founded by late business magnate Henry Sy.

In his Tuesday remarks, Mr Santos stated the firm was also eyeing new gaming projects across the country.

“We’re looking at various investment opportunities in the gaming space,” he reportedly said. “Within Entertainment City, if there are possible investments, why not? we’re also looking outside Metro Manila.”

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