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$250M earmarked for Solaire expansion

Posted on February 24, 2013 09:04:26 PM

By Franz J. G. de la Fuente, Reporter
BLOOMBERRY Resorts Corp. has allotted up to $250 million for the ongoing expansion phase of its flagship Solaire Resort and Casino Manila which is set to open near Manila Bay next month, as it maintains a bright outlook on local gaming in the next five years, a senior official of Solaire Manila said recently.
 “You can ballpark it [sic] at around $200-250 million or so,” Michael D. French, Solaire Manila chief operating officer, said in an interview at Solaire Manila, ParaƱaque City on Wednesday last week when asked how much the expansion of Solaire Manila -- dubbed Phase 1A -- is likely to cost.
“The total project (Solaire Manila phases 1 and 1A) will cost a total $1 billion, and the estimates for Phase 1 are at $750 million,” Mr. French said of Solaire Manila’s main phase that is opening to the public on March 16.
The first phase of Solaire Manila -- the first development set to open in Entertainment City -- will feature an 11-storey, 500-room hotel atop a three-level podium, as well as a 10-storey parking building, with the casino and gaming area alone expecting to hold 1,200 slot machines and occupy some 18,500 square meters.
Solaire Manila’s first phase sits on an 8.3-hectare lot within the state-run Bagong Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City in ParaƱaque City.
Phase 1A, which is expected to open in July or August next year, will feature a 300-suite hotel; a shopping center with about 40 luxury brand stores; a 2,000-seat entertainment theater for Broadway-type shows; 3,000 parking spaces; a night club; as well as dining venues, he added.
“All the piling (foundation work) is done and the structure is already starting to be put into place. It will probably be toward the end of the year when you see something going up there,” Mr. French said of ongoing work at Phase 1A.
Solaire Manila’s Phase 2 expansion, meanwhile, is still in the drawing board, with initial plans expected to materialize by yearend.
“We have eight hectares of land -- Phase 2 -- and we have some ideas already for it, but we don’t have a full program yet. We’ve already started talking about basic concepts, but I would expect probably toward the end of the year we will be more serious about planning about it,” Mr. French said.
“We’re quite happy to be presenting a product in the style of what we are making here. It’s good to be the first, and we are actually looking forward to our other colleagues opening their casinos over the next few years too,” Mr. French said.
Aside from Bloomberry, three other casino-resort developers, namely: Travellers International Hotel Group, Inc.; the SM Consortium; and Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment, Inc., have also been authorized by the government to build their respective gaming projects in Entertainment City.
“Entertainment City definitely has potential. Las Vegas, for instance, does around $5 or 6 billion a year in revenues, and getting to that number in four of five years is totally possible. The gaming market in the Philippines today is already doing around $1.9 billion,” Mr. French said.
Mr. French said Solaire Manila’s staff -- numbering roughly 4,600 employees -- is set for the March 16 opening.
“Everyone’s already been on board since January, some sooner than that.
Our gaming staff has been hired since September (2012), they’ve been doing training and learning how to deal with the games and so forth. We will do two weeks of practice -- we call it ‘simulation’ or ‘rehearsal’ -- before our paying customers walk in,” Mr. French said.
Bloomberry -- formerly known as Active Alliance, Inc. -- was originally engaged in the manufacture of electronic devices such as printed circuit boards, with operations based in Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
The firm’s loss grew more than threefold to P369.47 million as of September last year from P103.49 million in the same nine months in 2011 as a surge in expenses on the construction of Solaire Manila outpaced an increase in revenues.
Revenues in the same comparative periods -- consisting of interest and other income -- increased threefold to P152.09 million from P48.94 million, while expenses more than tripled to P533.71 million from P152.43 million.
The company’s shares fell by 18 centavos or 1.29% to close at P13.76 each on Friday last week from P13.94 last Thursday.

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