SkyCity downplays Asia expansion plans

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 11:04 01/02/2013

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SkyCity is playing down rumours of plans for a major expansion into the lucrative Philippines gaming market.

A media report today said the listed casino operator was looking at investing as much as $200 million in a giant new venue in Manila.

In response, SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison issued a statement confirming that the company had visited the Philippines "and consider[s] the market to be attractive".

However, he said there was nothing afoot that required disclosure to shareholders under Stock Exchange rules.

Asked for further details, Morrison provided a vaguely-worded statement which said the company was "continuing to monitor the competitive landscape and build relationships with key stakeholders in this developing market."

Craigs Investment Partners head of private wealth research Mark Lister said the speculation had come as a surprise, but he was satisfied with SkyCity's level of disclosure.

"It's quite clear they don't want people to get ahead of themselves and think that there's something actually planned in a more firm, concrete manner.

"No decisions have been made. It's probably nothing more than being aware of where the opportunities might lie."

Lister said it was pleasing to see SkyCity scouting around for future growth opportunities, though it probably had its hand full with its present portfolio.

The company is already pouring A$300m (NZ$376m) into its Adelaide expansion, recently bought out Queenstown casino and is still hoping to get the green light for a $350m international convention centre in Auckland.

"No-one likes to see a company bite off more than it can chew," said Lister.

"We like companies that will do things in sensible, small stages and get it right, rather than trying to do everything at once and drop the ball somewhere."

He added that the company did not have a "bottomless pit of money" to fund a range of simultaneous developments.

Lister did not expect the share price to move much one way or another in light of the speculation.

SkyCity shares were trading at $3.97 before the market open, and so far remain unchanged in morning trade.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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