Winnie Ho plans legal move to disrupt IPO

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2008, 12:00am

Winnie Ho Yuen-ki, the estranged sister of Stanley Ho Hung-sun, has launched a new attempt to derail the initial public offering of her brother's casino empire. She may file a lawsuit to block it in the High Court, or file an application for judicial review, or do both, as early as this week.

'Our legal team has been meeting every day to review the situation and we will move very fast,' a spokeswoman for Ms Ho said yesterday. 'Hopefully, we will take action this week.'

The long-running legal battle between Ms Ho and her brother concerns the corporate dealings of the company to be listed, Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM), and its parent, Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM). There are currently 33 cases filed in Macau and four in Hong Kong.

Ms Ho formerly served as a director of STDM and retains a 7.34 per cent stake.

Lawyers for Ms Ho, including Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan (no relation), are expected to focus their allegations on revisions to SJM's shareholding structure that took place in the run-up to the share sale.

These included share transfers among directors and the creation of new classes of shares, the spokeswoman said, adding that meetings were continuing last night.

Ms Ho's legal team is preparing to apply for a High Court judicial review of the decision by the Securities and Futures Commission and stock exchange listing committee to approve SJM's listing application.

Ms Ho and her representatives have yet to make final decisions on the lawsuit and judicial review application, according to the spokeswoman.

'There is nothing new here and Winnie Ho's actions are predictable,' said a source familiar with the company's listing plan. 'SJM is continuing with the process that the regulator already approved and there are no changes to the listing plans.'

A January attempt by SJM to raise up to HK$1 billion was postponed after Ms Ho lodged concerns with the SFC and listing committee and raised the possibility of filing for judicial review should the SFC allow the listing to proceed, according to the spokeswoman. The SFC subsequently raised additional queries with SJM, delaying the offering, sources said at the time.

In 2004, an application for judicial review successfully derailed the Hong Kong Housing Authority's Link Reit offering, but some observers said the circumstances were different from Ms Ho's proposed action.

The draft prospectus published by SJM this week includes an 18-page statement on risk factors that includes a discussion of the legal actions taken by Ms Ho.

'Such claims, regardless of their merit, could harm ... our reputation, corporate image and ultimately our share price,' it says.

'The directors believe, based on the advice of Macau legal advisers, that these proceedings will have no effect on the status, standing or activities of SJM; the validity, efficacy, substance, nature or content of the [share] reorganisation.'