SJM buys Macau land, triples size of planned casino resort in Cotai
SJM Holdings, Asia's biggest casino operator, plans to invest in land that will triple the size of its planned casino resort in Macau's Cotai area.
The company, founded by gambling mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun, would buy a stake in a neighbouring plot controlled by the mother of Ho's youngest children, chief executive Ambrose So Shu-fai said, without giving a price. SJM planned to finalise terms of the purchase by the end of this year, So added.
SJM is expanding in the increasingly popular Cotai area to catch up with rivals including Sands China and Galaxy Entertainment in the world's largest gambling hub. SJM, which runs 20 of Macau's 35 casinos, has none in Cotai and is the last of the city's six casino operators to receive government approval to develop the resort in the area.
"By combining the two pieces of land, we'll have a bigger site to develop a full-fledged resort," So said in Macau on Thursday, adding that the expansion would "give us a leg up on competition with other casino operators".
SJM will use the parcel to expand the non-gambling portion of its first Cotai gambling resort, initially planned on a 70,500 square metre site.
The 180,000 square metre site is owned by a company controlled by Angela Leong On-kei, an SJM executive director and Macau legislator. The plot has been approved for non-gaming entertainment uses.
Ho, 91, held a Macau gambling monopoly for four decades until 2002, when the government issued licences to overseas operators such as Sands and Wynn Resorts.
Sands China, owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, pushed SJM out of top spot in Macau's mass-market casino business in the first quarter.
SJM said last week it would boost the budget for its new resort by HK$5 billion to HK$25 billion because of rising labour and construction costs. The project will have as many as 700 gambling tables, 1,000 slot machines and a luxury hotel in partnership with Italian fashion house Gianni Versace.
The five-star Palazzo Versace hotel, with as many as 270 rooms, is scheduled to open in 2017.
SJM's pre-expansion site was the smallest among casino operators granted land in Cotai.
Galaxy Entertainment, controlled by billionaire Lui Che-woo, has two million square metres of land, according to a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong-based company.