Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Stock Market Today:Billionaire developer rides Vietnam gambling trend with casino

FLC Group Joint-stock Co., co-founded by billionaire Trinh Van Quyet, has joined a growing number of foreign and local investors betting on cashing in on Vietnam's decision to allow locals to roll the dice in casinos for the first time.

FLC Faros Van Don, a unit of FLC Group, received permission from the northern provincial government of Quang Ninh to invest about US$2 billion ($2.8 billion) in a casino resort, the company said in an email statement. The project will include a five-star hotel, convention center and golf course in the Van Don Special Economic Zone on the islands of Ngoc Vung and Van Canh. 

The company hopes its complex on a total of 4,000 hectares will tap tourists and possibly domestic gamblers.FLC's shares surged as much as 5.1% during Tuesday's trading after news of the casino project was released.

Vietnam's communist leaders, who are grappling with growing budget deficits, are hatching gambling initiatives to retain millions of dollars in the country that middle-class and wealthy Vietnamese otherwise spend in casinos abroad. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has issued two decrees this year to raise Vietnam's game in the regional competition for gambling revenue. A pilot plan to take effect this month will allow Vietnamese to gamble in the country's casinos for the first time.

Another will allow bets nationwide on horse and dog races, as well as international soccer matches. This follows what officials call an "American-style" lottery started last year by the finance ministry in partnership with Malaysia's Berjaya Corp Bhd.

Overseas gaming companies have long eyed Vietnam for expansion. Las Vegas Sands Corp. has for years considered a resort in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi according to George Tanasijevich, the company's managing director for global development. Hong Kong's Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and VinaCapital Investment Management are investing in a US$4 billion project in the prime minister's home province of Quang Nam along the central coast. In January, former hedge-fund manager Phil Falcone, the largest investor in the Grand Ho Tram Strip casino resort a two-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City, met with the prime minister in Hanoi.

Vietnamese going abroad to such gambling locales as Macau, Singapore -- and just across the border in Cambodia spend an estimated US$800 million on gambling every year, according to Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, an adviser to the Van Don Special Economic Zone where a casino funded by local investor Sun Group is planned about 175 kilometers (110 miles) northeast of Hanoi.

Shares of FLC have rallied 54% this year, heading for the biggest yearly advance since 2012. Co-founder Quyet said late last year that the company is in talks with a consortium of investors for its first overseas bond sale, which may raise as much as US$200 million to fund projects.
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