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SMIC to build hotel, casino in ’09

Monday, December 15, 2008

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THE SM group is set to build its hotel-casino and entertainment facilities for state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s (Pagcor) Bagong Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City next year.

Jose Sio, SM Investments Corp. (SMIC) chief finance officer, told reporters the holding firm will start construction of the hotels and casino within the Mall of Asia (MOA) complex adjacent to Pagcor’s project.

The 2-story casino, Sio said, is just a small portion of the company’s “total entertainment” offering as it would only have 10,000 square meters of floor space. He said it would be as big as the group’s supermarket in SM Megamall.

The executive said SMIC would form a new company under it to handle the entertainment venture. The gaming license and other necessary permits from Pagcor are expected to be released “soon,” he said.

Upon securing these, the holding firm will then select a third-party operator that will oversee the casino, similar to the arrangement it has with its future hotels in the area.

The holding company’s estimated $1-billion commitment to Pagcor is well under way, as it has been heavily investing in MOA, which will eventually be integrated into the Bagong Nayong Pilipino project. SMIC engaged hotel services provider Carlson Hotels Worldwide-Asia Pacific to manage Regent and Radisson branded hotels the Philippine company is building within the area.

Besides the high-end hotels, Sio said the SM group would put up SM-branded inns to cater to customers with a limited budget, local tourists and balikbayans.

In addition to the casino, SMIC will also build an arena that can host sporting events and concerts. A theme park may also be in the works, Sio said, to complete the company’s family friendly project.

To give room for all of its plans, the SM group will demolish its one-level headquarters in front of MOA and transfer its offices to the Two e-Com building under construction within the complex.

Earlier, Sio said the company would not slow down its expansion despite the economic downturn as it is set to open five new malls, additional retail stores and a Radisson in Cebu next year.

The executive said the group has enough funds for its expansion as it already secured $350 million or P17 billion from its bond issuance while it has another P27 million from the sale of its share in San Miguel Corp. SMIC also can tap existing and new credit lines, Sio said.-- Likha Cuevas-Miel


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