CHAIRMAN AND CEO
CHAIRMAN AND CEO
CHAIRMAN AND CEO
Genting Hong Kong
Travellers International Hotel Group
POWER SCORE: 3,295
POSITION LAST YEAR: 5
CLAIMS TO FAME
- Heads most global gaming company, present in top Asian markets (except Macau), the UK and North America
- Launched first new ground-up Las Vegas Strip integrated resort in a decade in 2021
- Grooming son Lim Keong Hui to succeed him as third generation Genting leader
TO DESCRIBE GENTING PATRIARCH Lim Kok Thay’s past year as a roller-coaster would be akin to calling Mt Everest a small bump in the road.
The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic were far-reaching, forcing the lengthy closure of Genting Group’s casinos and integrated resorts in Malaysia, Singapore, the US and the UK, and casting huge doubt over the future of cruise ship arm Genting Hong Kong.
In August 2020, Genting HK halted payments on US$3.37 billion in debt, citing the need to maintain liquidity in order to ride out the pandemic and sparking crisis talks with creditors while its global cruise fleet remained docked.
After months of negotiations, the company announced in June 2021 that it had confirmed agreements with some of those creditors for the company to be granted new loans and extensions to maturities on around US$2.6 billion of that debt, although talks with other lenders are still to be resolved. A further US$238 million loss in the six months to 30 June 2021 won’t have helped the cause, although at least some “cruise to nowhere” sailings have now resumed out of Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
To help ease the burden somewhat, Genting Hong Kong has been busy offloading non-core assets including the Zouk nightclub brand – purchased by Lim’s son and heir apparent Lim Keong Hui – a private jet, sold to Genting Group’s Resorts World Las Vegas, and a 26% stake in a luxury yacht brand which was taken off the company’s hands by Lim himself.
Genting Hong Kong also sold 50% of its interest in Genting Macau, a wholly-owned local subsidiary currently developing a hotel alongside Macau’s Nam Van Lake, for HK$750 million (US$96 million) with the remaining 50% stake likely to follow – apparently ending any chance of Genting planting a flag in Asia’s central casino hub.
Likewise, Genting Singapore saw its dreams of expanding to Japan any time soon scuttled when Yokohama’s new anti-IR mayor was voted into power in August. At least the company’s Singapore property, Resorts World Sentosa, has managed to stay surprisingly buoyant on local and expat demand, counting profit of SG$88.2 million (US$65.0 million) in 1H21.
Genting Malaysia reached six consecutive quarters of net losses in 3Q21, primarily due to casino closures in the US and UK and more recently the four-month closure of Malaysia’s Resorts World Genting.
But RWG finally reopened in early October and is expected to launch its long-awaited new theme park, Genting SkyWorld, in December with analysts tipping a rapid recovery and return to profitability by early 2022.
That positive sentiment has been matched by the reopening of casinos in the US and UK, with gaming revenues from Genting’s New York casinos already exceeding pre-COVID levels on significant pent-up demand.
More importantly, Genting’s US$4.3 million Resorts World Las Vegas project held its long-awaited grand opening on 24 June, marking the Las Vegas Strip’s first new ground-up integrated resort in a decade. Lim has already touted a US listing that would bring together the group’s US assets under the one umbrella.
For Lim himself, the impact of the pandemic has been considerable, dropping outside of the Forbes Asia Malaysia Rich List after seeing around US$500 million wiped from his personal fortune in 2021 alone and around US$1.8 billion since early 2019.
Exactly where that fortune stands over the next few years will very much depend on how he juggles the woes of Genting Hong Kong with the growing success of his Malaysian and Singapore IRs and long-term plans for the US.