Stanley Ho

Papers reveal Macau chief's casino stake

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am

Chain of holdings uncovered

Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah has held a stake in Stanley Ho Hung-sun's casino empire for the past 15 years, a paper trail of corporate documents spanning nearly three decades has revealed.

The former banker, who has headed the Macau government since the 1999 handover, denies any current interest or involvement in Stanley Ho's companies.

However, a South China Morning Post investigation has uncovered a chain of stock exchange and companies registry filings detailing how Edmund Ho, 52, and two brothers came to possess an indirect minority interest - estimated to be valued at more than HK$100 million - in both Stanley Ho's publicly listed Shun Tak Holdings and Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), the private conglomerate that has ultimately controlled most of the 85-year-old billionaire's casino, property and transport businesses since 1962.

The central link between Stanley Ho's casinos and Edmund Ho is a private Hong Kong firm controlled by the family of New World Development chairman Cheng Yu-tung: Many Town Company Limited.

After the 1983 death of their father, Ho Yin, founder of Macau's Tai Fung Bank, Edmund Ho and brothers Ho Hau-wing and William Ho Hou-chiu (who died this year) inherited a 3.3 per cent stake in Many Town.

Many Town has a direct 9 per cent stake in STDM and an indirect 1.8 per cent interest in publicly listed ferry operator and property developer Shun Tak Holdings, according to a series of court documents, Hong Kong stock exchange announcements and companies registry filings.

Edmund Ho denies having any business dealings with Stanley Ho or Cheng Yu-tung. He admits inheriting the Many Town stake but denies having any current interest in the firm.

Contacted last Wednesday, the chief executive's office declined to comment and referred questions to the Government Information Bureau. Bureau director Victor Chan Chi-ping responded in a letter at the weekend, saying that Edmund Ho had transferred his interest in Many Town to one of his brothers through a 1995 share swap.

'Since inheriting the shares, Mr Edmund Ho had no time to attend to the business of Many Town and other businesses in Hong Kong. Because of this, in 1995 he transferred these shares to his brother Mr Ho Hao-veng [Ho Hau-wing], in exchange [for] Mr Ho Hao-veng's shares in Tai Fung Bank in Macau,' Mr Chan said. 'After this transfer, he ceased to have any involvement with Many Town. He has never received any dividend from this company.'

Many Town's filings to the Hong Kong companies registry do not reflect the 1995 share transfer. From 1993 to the present they have continuously listed Edmund Ho and his two brothers as the beneficial owners of a 3.3 per cent stake in Many Town, as does a June filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange by International Entertainment Corporation, a company controlled by the family of New World's Mr Cheng.

A bureau spokesman was unable to explain the discrepancy, but said the chief executive and his lawyers were working to locate written documentation of the share transfer.

The corporate filings showing that the chief government official in the world's largest gaming market still has a stake in the city's foremost casino company may raise concerns over the transparency of governance in Macau and potential conflicts of interest. Taxes on casino winnings accounted for more than 70 per cent of Macau's fiscal revenue last year.

Since 1988, the year Edmund Ho entered local politics as a member of the legislative assembly, Macau has had a 'sunshine law' requiring officials to disclose their assets. Article 49 of Macau's Basic Law also requires the chief executive to declare his assets to the president of the Court of Final Appeal.

But unlike in Hong Kong - where full public disclosures are required - in Macau these declarations are sealed to the public.

Mr Chan said Mr Ho had declared his assets in accordance with the Basic Law.