n June, Melco completed the acquisition of a 60 % share in Macao Studio City. The gaming operator said the project has planned 300 to 400 tables and 1,200 gaming machines when it opens.
However, the secretary for Transport and Public Works, Lau Si Io, said there would be no casino at Macao Studio City, adding that the project primarily contains hotels and a film production project, as stated in the 2008 development plan.
Melco Crown Entertainment is now negotiating with local authorities to ensure a casino is included in the project. The company’s CEO and co-chairman Lawrence Ho Yau Lung said he was confident of striking a deal with the SAR Government to build a casino on the site, the newspaper The Australian reported, citing the last conference call.
“Before we even undertook investing in the Macao Studio City project, we had dialogue and communication with various levels of the Macau Government and they have been very supportive throughout the way,” Ho told investors. “And so, we have complete trust in the government making this project a reality. And in order to make it a reality, of course, we would need the necessary gaming tables to make the project financially viable for us.”
The New York-listed company recently announced they had applied for a dual listing and said they may issue new shares. Analysts believe that the possible dual listing in Hong Kong could help the local gaming operator receive government approval for a casino at the much delayed Macao Studio City resort.
“Without a casino at Macao Studio City, the investment should be worthless,” Ken Chen, Julian Bu and Christie Ju, Hong Kong-based analysts for Jefferies & Co., said in a note to clients. Raising the capital to develop the project may help the company get government approval for a casino but Melco could still face “approval obstacles,” they warned.
Melco Crown’s co-chairman confirmed that construction would commence next year and the property may open in 2015. Ho had said that they would invest us$ 1.7 billion in the development of the Cotai project.