UPDATE 1-Century signs Manila Bay development deal with Okada's Universal
(Adds stake purchase by First Paramount Holdings 888, Inc, details)
MANILA Nov 1 (Reuters) - Century Properties Group Inc signed a deal with a Philippine affiliate of Kazuo Okada's Universal Entertainment Corp to develop part of a $2-billion gaming project, driving up the Manila-listed developer's shares.
Century signed a pact with Eagle I Landholdings Inc to develop five hectares of the Japanese billionaire's entertainment and gaming resort project.
The Manila-based developer also signed a separate deal to acquire a 36 percent interest in Eagle I, the Universal affiliate that owns the 44-hectare site.
"We see this as a great investment for our shareholders, but we will not be involved in any aspect of the gaming operations," spokeswoman Terrie Fucanan-Yu told Reuters on Friday, but gave no values for the deals.
The deals will be approved once legal and regulatory requirements are met, she said.
For Universal the move appeared in part aimed at addressing accusations that it had violated Philippine law by setting up dummy companies to effectively exceed the 40 percent limit on foreign ownership of land.
Universal, which is being investigated by the government for possible violations of "anti-dummy" statues, has said it ran its Philippine business lawfully.
In a separate statement, Universal Entertainment said besides the deal with Century Properties Group, it would also sell preferred stock in Eagle 1 to a company named First Paramount Holdings 888, Inc.
The issue of shares to the two companies would leave more than 60 percent of Eagle 1 in Philippine hands, a move that would "create a more favourable situation in response to the land ownership requirements," Universal said.
Century Properties, a company led by the family of businessman Jose Antonio, held talks with Okada after failed negotiations between the Japanese tycoon and the Gokongwei-led Robinsons Land Corp.
Robinsons Land was seeking a majority stake not only in Eagle I's property but was also interested in Okada's Tiger Resorts, Leisure and Entertainment Inc for the casino operations. Those negotiations collapsed in May.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and its Philippine counterpart, the National Bureau of Investigation, have been running separate probes of Okada and his companies on suspicion that bribes were paid to advance Universal's casino project on Manila Bay.
Universal and Okada have denied those allegations.
In a statement on Friday, Century Properties said it would develop luxury retail and residential properties running into more than 300,000 sq.m. of gross floor area upon completion and will be issued with 432 million preferred shares.
Shares in Century Properties rose 5.2 percent in Manila trading, outperforming a weaker benchmark index.
Century Properties has 28 projects in various stages of construction in mixed-use developments in Manila, the capital, and the nearby southwestern province of Cavite.
Century's twin deals with Okada's Eagle I allow the developer a foothold in the Manila Entertainment City, one of the sites being considered to host the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) summit in 2015. (Reporting By Manuel Mogato in MANILA and Nathan Layne in TOKYO; Editing by Ryan Woo and Clarence Fernandez)