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Universal Says Manila Resort Still on Track

Wednesday, 09 April 2014 03:15

The Philippines operating subsidiary of Kazuo Okada’s Universal Entertainment said a partnership dispute will not prevent its US$2 billion Manila Bay Resorts from opening on schedule in the third quarter of 2015.

The partnerships assembled by a Universal investment group led by a company called Eagle I Landholdings have unraveled. First Paramount Holdings 888, a property developer, withdrew from the project, and Eagle I has terminated its deal with the other partner, Century Properties Group, which is contesting the termination in court and has won an order to halting good for 20 days.

Century claims its deal remains valid with Eagle I because other partners can be found to replace Paramount. Century blames their dispute on other issues, which may include the exclusive rights Century had secured under the agreement to develop the luxury retail and residential portions of Manila Bay Resorts. The agreement calls for Century to own 36% of Eagle I.

“In connection with the issue on the allegations of Century Properties Group Inc., we regret that the development turned out the way it did,” according to a statement issued by Tiger Resorts, Leisure and Entertainment, the operating entity that holds Universal’s gaming license for Manila Bay Resorts.“We wish to say that there have been no financial transactions with CPGI and the Okada group. As we have mentioned previously, the investment agreement with CPGI was executed by three parties. Unfortunately, one of the three withdrew from the agreement. Hence, we have no recourse but to stop the negotiations with CPGI.”

Century’s court order bars the Universal subsidiaries from negotiating with other companies relating to Manila Bay Resorts for the duration of the 20-day stay. It also requires the group to produce all documents and information necessary for Century to complete its due diligence on its investment.

Philippine law caps foreign landholdings in the country to 40%, and the government had charged that Universal and Eagle I were not in compliance. The partnerships were negotiated last year to resolve the issue, with Century and First Paramount combining to hold 60% of Eagle I. But that may now be open to dispute and could affect Tiger’s license, according to PAGCOR, the government agency that licenses and regulates gaming in the country.

Tiger, however, says no. “We project mass hiring of operational staff during our planned opening in the third quarter of 2015,” it said. “We project employment will reach 15,000 both for direct and indirect employees, once our project is finished.”

Manila Bay Resorts occupies five hectares of a special government-sponsored resort district on Manila Bay called Entertainment City. Plans call for 2,000 hotel rooms, 3,000 slot machines and 500 table games, an oceanarium and sports arena and a giant Ferris wheel.

Tiger is one of four entities licensed by PAGCOR to operate resort casinos at Entertainment City. The first opened last spring, Solaire Resort & Casino, owned by PSX-listed Bloomberry Resorts. Macau's Melco Crown Entertainment is opening the second later this year. The fourth, licensed to Travellers International Hotel Group, the joint venture behind Resorts World Manila, the country’s largest casino, is expected to open in 2016. Travellers is a partnership between Genting Hong Kong and Philippine restaurant and property giant Alliance Global.

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