Genting's Lim sounds out a boost in Echo
One of Asia's most powerful businessmen, K.T. Lim, has said he would be prepared to boost his stake in Australia's Echo Entertainment beyond 10 per cent if he was given the green light by regulators.
Comments by the chairman of Malaysian gaming giant Genting suggest Mr Lim is serious about his investment in the Australian casino operator, even after it faces the loss of its Sydney monopoly later this decade to the James Packer-backed rival Crown.
In an interview in Kuala Lumpur with Bloomberg, Mr Lim said he had not decided how many Echo shares Genting would like to own, even as it holds out for a decision on the 10 per cent stake.
The Hong Kong arm of Genting has also sought approval to move to as much as 25 per cent in Echo, owner of Sydney's The Star casino.
Crown and Echo have been engaged in a bitter fight for the right to build new casinos in Sydney and Brisbane.
Mr Packer's proposal to build a luxury hotel and casino at Barangaroo on the edge of Sydney's central business district received the backing of the NSW government this month, ahead of Echo's rival plan to expand The Star.
"We have not formed any views yet [on the size of the stake], especially now that Mr Packer has sold his shares for the reason that he is working on a competing casino, and the state seems certainly very keen to see competition in NSW," Mr Lim said.
"All that are factors that, as an investor, we would have to take into consideration. So we have formed no views yet. We would cross that bridge after we've got our licence."
Mr Lim said the the NSW and Queensland government approval process to move to 10 per cent of Echo was expected to take some time. "We are just patiently waiting. It's a two-way process: they [state governments] would ask for more information and we would have to compile the information and we would feed them with it and they would ask more questions."
Analysts believe Genting, one of Asia's biggest casino operators, has the financial resources to support a full tilt at Echo.
Meanwhile, Mr Lim said Genting was sitting and watching Mr Packer's attempts at building a second casino in Sydney.
"He [Mr Packer], too, would have to go through the various process that I'm sure the government would set up to encourage investment to become real," he said. "Again, it will take some time."
The Genting group of companies has been expanding abroad, from the Bahamas to Manila, amid restrictions on gaming in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Mr Lim said Genting would "love" to operate a casino in Macau but acknowledged the door was currently closed on new licences.
Shares in Echo last traded on Friday at $2.69. With Bloomberg