CHAIRMAN AND CEO
DEPUTY CHAIRMAN AND CEO
CHAIRMAN AND CEO
Genting Hong Kong
Travellers International Hotel Group
POWER SCORE: 2,727
POSITION LAST YEAR: 4
CLAIMS TO FAME
- Heads most global gaming company, present in North America, the UK and top Asian markets except Macau
- Expansion ambitions, especially in cruises through Genting Hong Kong, and diminished revenue battering its balance sheet
- Grooming son Lim Keong Hui to succeed him as third generation Genting leader
As big as Genting Group is, with gaming assets in eight jurisdictions held in four listed companies, a reported US$4.73 billion in gaming revenue and US$1.67 billion in profits from its leisure and hospitality segment last year, Genting is quiet, predictable, even boring compared with its splashier rivals. Chairman Lim Kok Thay prefers not to make waves. But the splashy, wavy part of Genting’s business, its cruise segment berthed in Genting Hong Kong, shattered the calm, threatening to sink Lim’s fortune and perhaps swamp the group’s balance sheet.
It’s the biggest challenge Lim has faced since taking the helm in 2007 from his father, Genting founder Lim Goh Tong. Its outcome may well determine what the 69-year-old chairman hands over to his son, Lim Keong Hui, being groomed as his successor.
Genting took to the seas decades ago with casino cruises to nowhere from Singapore and Hong Kong, then offered full-fledged voyages under its Star Cruises brand, the original company name for its Hong Kong listed arm. Genting bought a strategic stake in Norwegian Cruise Line then offloaded it to buy high-end Crystal Cruises in 2015. That same year, it launched Dream Cruises, targeting the China market, and bought a shipyard in Germany to produce vessels.
In August 2020, Genting HK halted payments on its US$3.37 billion in debt as of 31 July and met with creditors to begin talks on restructuring. Genting HK shares dipped below HK$0.30 (US$0.04) after ending July at HK$0.49 and trading near HK$1.00 a year earlier.
Even before COVID-19 sapped Genting’s financial strength – Genting Berhad and Genting HK lost a combined US$1.19 billion in the first half of this year – there were hints of a potential cash crunch. Fitch Ratings downgraded the group last year, noting projected capital demands of US$5.5 billion this year, including US$4.2 billion Resorts World Las Vegas and a US$3.3 billion expansion in Singapore. Genting sold a piece of Dream Cruises last year for US$479 million and reduced its capital commitment to an Entertainment City IR in Manila.
Genting Berhad exited Genting Hong Kong in 2015, but Lim reportedly has pledged a significant portion of his 45% shareholding in the Malaysia listed group parent company to keep Genting HK afloat. His personal fortune has declined by an estimated US$1.5 billion due to the share price drops from mid-2019. It’s unknown what assets Lim and family have salted away for a potential rescue. Shareholders may fear a replay of the Empire Resorts bailout, when the Lims’ Kiem Huat Realty corporatized its losses from Resorts World Catskills by selling it to Genting Malaysia.
Despite the current financial stormy seas, underestimate Genting at your peril. Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore would likely be the most admired IR in Asia if it wasn’t across town from Marina Bay Sands. Similarly, in a country where most citizens are legally barred from gambling, Resorts World Genting has a wealth of non-gaming attractions, exactly what Japan wants in an IR.
That model could even resonate in Macau as license retendering approaches. Genting has the most casinos in the UK, and US ambitions in Vegas, Florida and New York, where it hopes its two existing gaming facilities put it on course for a New York City casino license. As gaming edges back toward normal, expect Genting’s ships to start coming in again.
For the full list of 2020 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.