The gambling moguls' joint venture raises stakes on Cotai Strip with $8 billion entertainment complex Casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun and Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer, will build a massive casino-resort complex on Macau's Cotai Strip, where it will compete with two other gambling projects already being built. Mr Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) said yesterday its joint venture with Mr Ho's Melco International Development would acquire 1.21 million square feet of land on the isthmus for US$214 million, with financing for the purchase to be raised on debt and equity markets. The integrated entertainment resort would feature an 'underwater casino hall showcasing tropical marine life capable of housing 450 gaming tables and 3,000 slot machines', PBL said in a statement filed with the Australia Stock Exchange yesterday. The project will also include two four-star hotels and one five-star hotel with a combined 2,000 rooms, two luxury serviced apartment blocks measuring 1.5 million sqft, a 4,000-seat performance hall and an upmarket shopping centre. The complex is due for completion by mid-2008. PBL said the US$214 million price tag for the site, which comes on renewable 25-year leasehold terms, was inclusive of a land premium of about US$64 million payable to the Macau government. Talks to operate the casino were under way with Mr Ho's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM), which holds one of three gambling licences in Macau, PBL said. The casino complex, valued by Melco at $8 billion, is the second undertaken by the joint venture, which in November last year committed to building a luxury Park Hyatt casino resort on Taipa island. The Cotai project is opposite another massive planned resort development - the US$3.5 billion, 12,000-room casino-hotel complex to be built by Las Vegas casino giant Sheldon Adelson's Venetian group and his partners. Galaxy Casino, a company started by Hong Kong property tycoon Lui Che-woo, shares a casino licence with Adelson and plans to open a 3,000-room property nearby. The $4 billion Galaxy Cotai Mega Resort will have 340 gaming tables and 1,000 slot machines. Meanwhile, Melco has been sending out feelers for a possible share placement to raise about $1.6 billion. Sources said Melco, headed by Mr Ho but run by his son Lawrence Ho Yau-lun, planned to issue more than 80 million new shares at $19 each, representing a 2.06 per cent discount to the closing price of $19.40 before the stock was suspended from trading on Wednesday. Melco executives met investment bankers on Wednesday to gauge sponsorship interest in the placement, the sources said. Participants reportedly include Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse First Boston and JP Morgan. Executives from the three banks and Melco were unavailable for comment yesterday. 'A cash call from Melco is highly possible, since it has a number of projects in the pipeline,' said Andes Cheng, an analyst at South China Research. Meanwhile, investors continued to dump Macau-related shares yesterday, fearing more placements and dilutions.