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Sy group, Macau casino operator forge $1-B gaming complex deal

By Zinnia Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) Updated July 06, 2012 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Belle Corp., controlled by the family of retail tycoon Henry Sy, has struck a partnership with Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., paving the way for the entry of the Macau casino operator into the rapidly gaming market in the Philippines.

Belle vice-chairman Willy N. Ocier said an agreement has been signed yesterday between the company and Melco on their collaboration involving a $1-billion casino-hotel project along Roxas Blvd.

“We’re announcing tonight. Done already,” Ocier said as of presstime yesterday.

Ocier said the terms of the deal would be crafted in the next 60 days.

He pointed out that their original partner, Leisure & Resorts World Corp., is still very much part of the project amid speculations it would be bought out by Melco Crowne, which is backed by the sons of Macau gambling kingpin Stanley Ho and the late Australian casino-and-media magnate Kerry Packer.

Melco is one of only six casino license holders in Macau, the world’s largest gambling market. It runs two casino-resort properties in the Chinese territory and has a 60 percent stake in a project that is undergoing construction.

The Belle-Melco partnership is seen as a big boost to the Philippines’ goal of becoming a major gaming haven in Asia.

It will also provide Melco a foothold in the Philippine gaming market, which it has long cast its eyes on.

Packer was earlier reported to be increasingly turning to casinos to expand his business as he aims to create a Pan-Asian gambling empire. His company, Crown Ltd., owns about a third of Melco Crown, which owns fast-growing casinos in Asia’s gambling capital of Macau.

The project, Belle Grande Manila Bay, will have a gross floor area of more than 25 hectares when it opens its doors to the public in 2013.              

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