Stanley Ho succession plans in place

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am

Recent moves by 89-year-old casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun to partly divide his estate among his three surviving wives and 16 surviving children appear to have reassured investors that succession plans are in place at Shun Tak Holdings and SJM Holdings.

But as far as Ho's estate is concerned, Shun Tak and SJM are only the tip of the iceberg.

Shares in SJM rose as much as 2 per cent in a down market yesterday after a regulatory filing showed Ho transferred his entire direct 7 per cent stake in the gaming company - worth around HK$4.8 billion - to his fourth wife, Angela Leong On-kei.

Earlier this month, Ho - who suffered a lengthy hospitalisation last year after undergoing brain surgery to remove a blood clot - transferred an 11.55 per cent stake in property and shipping firm Shun Tak worth around HK$1.3 billion to a company controlled by his second wife, Lucina Laam King-ying, and five of their children (Pansy, Daisy, Maisy, Josie and Lawrence).

'Stanley Ho is dividing up his various listed companies among family members,' Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Karen Tang wrote this week in a research note. 'We think this should lower uncertainties related to his succession plan.'

Indeed, Ho's recent flurry of transfers served to reaffirm long-standing market expectations as to who will take over his interests in Shun Tak and SJM - with their combined market value of HK$174 billion - once he is no longer at the helm.

But the bigger succession question that remains unanswered is what will happen to Ho's unlisted Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), the private holding company that ultimately controls most of his assets.

Founded in 1962 by Ho, tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung, gambling expert Yip Hon and racing car aficionado Teddy Yip, STDM today controls a 56 per cent stake in SJM.

The firm also holds stakes in casinos in Portugal, Vietnam and North Korea, as well as investments in five Macau hotels, real estate, department stores, the Macau airport, a fleet of corporate jets, a cross-border helicopter service, shipping and dredging operations and the Macau horse- and dog-racing tracks.

So who controls STDM? The company had 44 disparate shareholders in 2008, according to SJM's listing prospectus. Ho's stake is the largest, at 33.7 per cent. The Fok Ying Tung Foundation has a 27 per cent stake, looked after by the late tycoon's younger son, Ian Fok Chun-wan.

Shun Tak has an effective 11.5 per cent stake in STDM, while the family of New World Development chairman Cheng Yu-tung has 10 per cent. Ho's estranged sister Winnie Ho Yuen-ki, who has sued and been sued by her brother dozens of times in Hong Kong and Macau courts, controls 7 per cent.

Leong and Pansy Ho are both directors and shareholders of STDM, while Ho's third wife, Ina Chan Un-chan, holds a minor stake.

Ho, the managing director and last surviving founder of STDM, holds most of his controlling interest in the sprawling firm via his wholly owned, Hong Kong-registered Lanceford Company Limited.

Perhaps tellingly, Lanceford last year introduced two new directors alongside Ho, his second wife Laam and his longtime lieutenant Patrick Huen Wing-ming.

They were his daughters Pansy and Daisy.