Melco International Development, a Macau gaming firm, reported a net loss of HK$29 million for the first half from a HK$534 million profit a year ago but expects income to improve after it is granted a casino licence later this year. The downturn was mainly because of a lack of one-off gain as the company booked a HK$514 million gain from subsidiary disposals in the first half of last year. Turnover rose 48 per cent to HK$371.4 million in the six months to June, up from HK$250.7 million a year ago. Chairman Lawrence Ho Yau-lung said he expected revenue from gaming would increase after its US$900 million acquisition of Macau's sixth and last gaming licence in March with Australia's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL). Mr Ho said the licence, in which Melco will have a 40 per cent stake and PBL 60 per cent, would be officially granted as soon as next month by the Macau government. The licence from Wynn Resorts will allow Melco-PBL to operate an unlimited number of casinos, as well as tables and slot machines until June 2022. After getting the licence, Melco's Mocha Slots gaming development will stop paying 29 per cent of its revenue to Stanley Ho Hung-sun's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, the holder of the gaming licence under which Melco operates now. Melco's revenue from gaming and gaming technology rose to HK$228.4 million in the first half from HK$188.7 million a year ago. Melco and PBL have agreed to equally split the costs for all their projects in Macau and Asia, including the Crown Macau six-star casino hotel, expected to open next year and the US$1 billion City of Dreams entertainment casino resort, due to start operation in 2008. Melco-PBL aims to raise at least US$1 billion, by selling a 20 per cent stake, in an initial public offering later this year on the Nasdaq, sources have said. Melco shares yesterday fell 2.34 per cent to end at HK$18.36, before the results.