MANILA, July 10 Empire East Land Holdings Inc
has begun talks with Kazuo Okada on the possible
purchase of a Manila lot where the Japanese tycoon is building a
$2 billion casino resort complex, said the president of the
Philippine real estate developer.
"Talks are very preliminary," President Anthony Charlemagne
Yu told a press briefing in Manila on Wednesday.
He declined to say whether the discussions involve the
entire lot where Okada is building his casino resort complex or
just part of it.
A Tokyo-based spokesman for Okada's Universal Entertainment
Corp that is planning the development could not be
immediately reached for comment.
A land deal with Empire East, a unit of conglomerate
Alliance Global Inc through its property arm Megaworld
Corp, could put back on track the Japanese
billionaire's first casino venture in Manila.
Three rival casino resorts have already been allowed to
operate in the 100-hectare Entertainment City near Manila Bay,
including the Solaire Resort & Casino.
Universal and another Philippine developer, Robinsons Land
Corp, earlier failed to reach a deal over a planned
joint development of Okada's Manila Bay Resorts.
A deal had been seen as a way for Universal to resolve a
legal dispute over the ownership structure of Eagle I, the
registered owner of a 40-hectare plot of land on Manila Bay.
Last year, an arm of the Philippine justice department
published a legal opinion indicating the structure breached the
constitution because Aruze USA, a U.S. firm controlled by Okada,
effectively held 64 percent of Eagle I via direct and indirect
stakes. That would be above a foreign ownership threshold of 40
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, the
industry regulator, has said Universal needs to address the land
issue before the casino can open.
Universal has said it conducts its business in the
A Universal spokesman said in May that the company could
seek a new partner or go it alone in order to ensure that the
Manila Bay Resorts casino opened next year.
Yu said Empire East wanted to know if Universal was willing
to pursue the residential project even if the casino did not go
"We are still interested in the residential (segment)," he
There have been "expressions of interest for a joint
undertaking in the residential development," Yu said.
Empire East separately agreed last year to take the lead in
building high-end residential towers at Universal's planned
Shares of Empire East fell 3.1 percent on Wednesday. The
broader market slipped 0.3 percent.