Japan's Universal plans backdoor listing for Philippine casino operator

MANILA, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp is taking its Philippines casino operator public through a subsidiary’s purchase of a majority stake in Manila-listed Asiabest Group International.

Asiabest, a holding company, said on Tuesday its shareholders signed a deal for Tiger Resort Asia Ltd to acquire two-thirds of the company for $46.5 million pesos ($12 million).

Tiger, which owns the operator of the $2.4 billion Okada Manila integrated casino-resort, is a subsidiary of Universal.

The special block sale, which will take effect on Nov. 12, would allow the casino operator to join the Philippines’ stock exchange, the worst performing bourse in Southeast Asia this year.

The move comes amid a difficult political climate for casinos in the Philippines, with President Rodrigo Duterte saying he hates gambling and vowing there would be no new casinos set up during his presidency.

Okada Manila is one of three integrated casino-resorts operating in the Philippine capital’s version of the Las Vegas gaming strip. Melco Resorts and Entertainment (Philippines) Corp., which operates City of Dreams Manila in the same gaming strip, plans to de-list from the stock exchange.

Tiger would offer to buy out minority shareholders of Asiabest, which implemented a voluntary trading suspension on Tuesday.

Universal and Tiger representatives were not immediately available for comment. ($1 = 53.92 Philippine pesos) (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Additional Reporting by Mari Saito in Tokyo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)