Suncity Group has confirmed it has significantly boosted its stake in the company that controls the Tigre de Cristal casino in Russia’s far east.
On Tuesday, the Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings Ltd announced that it had boosted its stake in Summit Ascent Holdings from 3.29% to 27.97% at a cost of HK$717.8m (US$104.3m). Summit Ascent holds a 60% stake in Oriental Regent Ltd, which operates Tigre de Cristal, the only casino currently active in Russia’s Primorye gaming zone outside Vladivostok.
Summit Ascent announced earlier this month that the Taiwan-based First Steamship Company Ltd was looking to offload its stake in the Russian venture. First Steamship acquired its stake in late-2017 after Tigre de Cristal’s founder, Melco Int’l boss Lawrence Ho, decided his casino fortunes lay elsewhere.
Since Suncity acquired its initial stake in Summit Ascent last November, the two companies have been growing ever closer. In January, the two companies moved next door to each other in the same Hong Kong office tower, suggesting an even tighter connection between the two may eventually be in store.
Tigre de Cristal reported a modest gaming revenue decline in 2018 in part due to disagreements with its current crop of junket operators. Those disagreements aren’t likely to come up again, given that Suncity Group Holdings is the publicly traded sister of the privately held Suncity Group, Asia’s premier casino junket operator.
Both Suncity companies are controlled by Alvin Chau, who recently provided a $192m loan to the publicly traded company after it reported a $217.5m loss in 2018.
Last year’s losses were partially due to the fact that the public Suncity has been dramatically ramping up its ownership stake in Asia-Pacific casino operations in recent years. In addition to Tigre de Cristal, Suncity holds a 34% stake in the Hoiana integrated resort project in Vietnam, has partnered on a casino project in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville region and is mulling taking an unspecified stake in South Korean casino operator Paradise Co Ltd.
Tigre de Cristal will finally get some local competition when Nagacorp’s Naga Vladivostok casino opens either late this year or early next year, while Diamond Fortune Holdings’ Imperial resort has targeted a 2020 launch.