May 12, 2010 / 12:35 AM / 9 years ago

Malaysia's Berjaya to buy sports betting firm-media

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s Berjaya Corp (BGRO.KL) will acquire a controlling stake in Ascot Sports that is a frontrunner for a sports betting license, the Edge Financial Daily reported on Wednesday citing sources.

Ascot Sports, the private investment vehicle for Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan, is expected to be a key beneficiary if the government decides to legalise sports betting in the Southeast Asian country before the World Cup next month.

Tan is also the single largest shareholder in Berjaya Corp, which announced a suspension of its shares for Wednesday pending an announcement. Berjaya shares on Tuesday tumbled 5.5 percent to 1.54 ringgit before the announcement.

“The move will benefit over 90,000 shareholders, if the decision is endorsed. It will certainly be interesting for the market,” the Edge cited sources close to Tan as saying.

The Star newspaper quoted industry sources as saying that Ascot Sports had already secured the license in January but was unlikely to be ready in time for the World Cup.

“Ascot Sports has been busy preparing to commence operations but it is expected to start business only in August or September,” the Star said without specifying the sources.

Berjaya Corp and Ascot Sports could not be immediately reached for comment.

The government has yet to announce the award of the sports betting license but last week Deputy Finance Minister Awang Adek Hussein said the government was studying the possibility of issuing licenses to curb illegal betting.

Analysts say the value of the Malaysian sports betting business, long controlled by illegal syndicates, could range from 612 million ringgit to as much as 8 billion ringgit ($191.1 million - $2.50 billion). (Reporting by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe)

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