Branson to join Macau's casino rush


Branson to join Macau's casino rush - 27th January 2007
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Elvis, now at Virgin Casino


HONG KONG: Richard Branson's Virgin Group was close to securing a 20 hectare site in Macau to build a $US3 billion ($3.8 billion) casino complex which could add to the city's rise as the world's gambling capital, a newspaper reported on Friday.

The flamboyant British entrepreneur, whose business empire has interests ranging from airlines to music and mobile phones, was close to acquiring the site in the Chinese special administrative region, the Financial Times reported.

"We hope to get all the boxes ticked in the next couple of months and start developing the site soon afterwards," Sir Richard was quoted by the paper as saying.

The newspaper said Sir Richard had held talks with Macau's leader, chief executive Edmund Ho, on Wednesday to try to confirm arrangements for the planned entertainment complex featuring three hotels and a casino, which could open by 2010.

Sir Richard was quoted as saying the cost of development would be $US3 billion, funded "at least partially with a mix of Virgin equity and debt financing from international banks", the paper reported. It added Sir Richard would recoup his upfront costs within 18 months of opening.

Sir Richard could opt for a branded joint-venture arrangement with one of six groups which held rights to run casinos in the former Portuguese enclave, the newspaper added.

Among these is Australia's Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd, which is building three casinos in the Chinese city.

PBL, with joint venture partner Melco International, is spending $US3.3 billion on the developments, which include the City of Dreams development on the Cotai strip, scheduled to open at the end of 2008.

Macau has just dethroned Las Vegas as the world's biggest gambling centre, with some analysts predicting its gambling revenue could more than double to $US14 billion by 2010.

Two of the world's top gaming firms, the Las Vegas Sands Corp and Wynn Resorts, have already built mega-casinos in Macau and other world-class competitors including MGM Mirage are due to pile in later this year.

Reuters

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