Sister sues Ho for billions in back dividends
Winnie Ho Yuen-ki, the estranged sister of Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun, yesterday lodged a new petition in the High Court alleging billions of dollars in unpaid and underpaid dividends from Mr Ho's private gaming empire to Hong Kong-listed Shun Tak Holdings.
Shun Tak has a 15.8 per cent interest in Sociedade de Tursimo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), the privately held conglomerate that has had ultimate control of most of Mr Ho's casino interests in Macau since 1962.
Last year, Shun Tak received HK$108.5 million in dividends from STDM, a 16.3 per cent increase from the previous year, according to Shun Tak's annual report.
Ms Ho alleges that Shun Tak directors, including chairman Mr Ho, his daughter and Shun Tak managing director Pansy Ho Chiu-king and executive director Ambrose So Shu-fai, failed in their 'duties in relation to [Shun Tak's] rights and entitlements to share in STDM's annual net profits by way of distribution of dividends', according to court documents seen by the South China Morning Post.
The new legal complaint, the first to centre on the issue of dividend payments to a publicly listed firm, is the latest volley in a long-running legal battle between Ms Ho and her brother that has played out in courtrooms in Macau and Hong Kong.
Ms Ho had previously raised the dividend issue with her brother in open letters published as advertisements in local newspapers, as well as in a letter sent by her lawyers to Shun Tak earlier this month, according to the court filing.
Ms Ho, 84, charges that STDM underpaid Shun Tak annual dividends between 1994 and 2002 totalling HK$27 million.
In addition, the suit alleges that for years STDM acted against its own articles of association by failing to distribute in entirety its annual net profit, excluding certain provisions for a legal reserve fund.
'The amounts improperly retained by STDM, part of which [Shun Tak] ... should have received by way of dividends, ran into the billions of dollars each year,' the complaint charges.
The petition requests that the court order Shun Tak to launch legal proceedings against STDM to recover the dividends and to seek damages from its own directors for alleged breach of duty.
No spokesperson from Shun Tak was available for comment.