October 6, 2008 / 12:14 AM / 11 years ago

Vietnam casino developer eyes $1 bln HK IPO -paper

HONG KONG, Oct 6 (Reuters) - A Canadian firm developing an ocean-front casino complex in Vietnam hopes to raise $1 billion in a Hong Kong IPO in the next two years, a local newspaper reported, despite signs of weakening Asian gambling revenue.

Asian Coast Development and investor Harbinger Capital began work on their $4.2 billion Ho Tram Strip project in May, hoping to open in two years and target mainly Chinese gamblers. [ID:nHAN219691]

The South China Morning Post cited chairman Mike Aymong as saying on Monday he would prefer a Hong Kong share offering because of strong investor appetite there for gambling firms.

Aymong was also quoted as saying the firm had prepared an $800 million to $900 million debt offering, but planned to ride out the global financial storm before taking it to market.

“You’d have to be a fool not to be concerned about the marketplace, so we just have to pick our timing and pick our price,” the newspaper cited Aymong as saying.

“We’ve got enough money where we can start the pre-construction and start building, and when the market opens back up, we’ll go out and do the debt offering.”

Analysts point out that explosive growth in Asian gambling — fuelled by increasingly wealthy Chinese gamers — may be decelerating.

Citigroup estimated on Monday that year-on-year gambling revenue in Macau, the region’s gambling capital, fell 3 percent in September, the first fall since January 2006.

The bank cited restrictions on visas granted to residents of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, a major source of gamers for the former Portugese enclave, the only city in China that permits gambling.

Investor demand for gambling-focused firms has also waned in past months. In July, the much-anticipated debut of tycoon Stanley Ho’s gaming flagship, SJM Holdings (0880.HK), disappointed investors when its shares dipped 1.3 percent below its offering price on its first day. [ID:nHKG186258] (Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Ken Wills)

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