Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Harrah's Plans to Buy Planet Hollywood Casino

Harrah's Entertainment Inc. has filed an application to purchase the struggling Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, the Nevada Gaming Control Board said Monday.

The casino giant has formed a new subsidiary, PHW Las Vegas LLC, with the intent of taking over the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. PHW filed the application to casino regulators last week, a person at the Control Board said. The Las Vegas Planet Hollywood is a separate entity from the restaurant chain, which has locations around the world.

Harrah's began pursuing Planet Hollywood in September when it purchased a $140 million piece of Planet Hollywood's $870 million debt for an undisclosed amount from Goldman Sachs Group.

Planet Hollywood defaulted on its commercial mortgage around the same time. That gave lenders the right to foreclose on the property, Planet Hollywood said in a filing. However, the company is still in discussions with its lenders, Planet Hollywood spokeswoman Amy Sadowsky said Monday.

A person close to the situation said that it appears the slice of debt Harrah's purchased in September could give the casino giant enough influence over the other lenders to control the property. It's unclear whether or not Harrah's has purchased additional debt since then.

Harrah's controls six contiguous Las Vegas casinos just north of Planet Hollywood. Those properties are across the street from City Center, the $8.5 billion MGM Mirage resort which is set to open in December.

In an email to employees last week, Harrah's Chief Executive Gary Loveman said the location made the distressed Planet Hollywood an attractive acquisition. Harrah's is working on a plan to own and manage the property, Mr. Loveman wrote.

"This is an attractive proposition because of Planet Hollywood's proximity to our other resorts on the Strip, its high-quality product offering and its strong brand name," Mr. Loveman wrote in the email.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. currently manages the project's hotel and also has a minority stake in Planet Hollywood.

Restaurateur Robert Earl, who developed the movie-themed Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, and investment manager Bay Harbour Management acquired the Las Vegas property in 2007.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Casino News Media: James Packer feels squeeze in Macau - 18th January 2010

The casino sector in Macau has recovered strongly from the impact of the global financial crisis and the tightening of visa restrictions by the Chinese Government. As a result, the Melco Crown Entertainment joint venture involving Australian billionaire James Packer must do more to safeguard its market share of 12.5% . Its latest results are due out in February 2010.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

PartyGaming joins spread betting party, by Greg Tingle - 15th January 2010

London Capital Group and PartyGaming ink deal. A new player in an ultra competitive sector.

The spread betting market in the UK sector is one of the most competitive in the world, mind you, so is the igaming sector, so one shouldn't be surprised that PartyGaming is ramping up, as its been doing with its casino, poker, bingo and media related sectors of the company.

News today is that PartyGaming has inked a three-year deal with London Capital Group to soon offer a financial spread betting platform. PartyGaming also has brand names and PartyMarkets, so its probable that the deal with go into one of those brand names.

Industry analysts will of course question if London Capital Group assisting another white label partner into the UK market is a good or bad move. That's something only time will tell. PartyGaming is a large and established player thus can help to offset any costs and reduce majors risks in prime spread betting.

PartyGaming Plc is reportedly the world’s leading listed online gaming company.

The Group is a constituent of the FTSE 250 share index with its shares listed on The London Stock Exchange under the ticker: PRTY. In the year to 31 December 2008, PartyGaming’s Continuing operations generated revenues of $472.9m and Clean EBITDA of $144.2m.

Partygaming has a global reach, and that should place them in a strong position. The Asia Pacific region, and in particular, Australia, is seen to have strong growth potential in the sector.

It's expected that a number of PartyGaming punters will take to the financial spread betting offering, just as some bingo players take to casino, poker and table games. Exactly how much cross over audience for spread betting remains to be see.

*The writer is the founder of the Media Man group of companies including Global Gaming Directory and Casino News Media and has b2b dealings with a number of PartyGaming brands, as they do with dozens of brands in the igaming, gaming and financial sector.




Saturday, January 09, 2010

Branson's Virgin shakes up UK banking - 8th January 2010

Virgin Money, part of Richard Branson's Virgin empire, launched a shake-up of Britain's troubled retail banking market on Friday with the purchase of a private regional lender.

Virgin said it had agreed to buy Church House Trust for 12.28 million pounds ($A21.4 million) and would use the bank to offer savings and mortgage products to customers under the Virgin Money brand.

"The Church House Trust business offers us a strong platform for growth," Branson said in a statement announcing the deal.

"Virgin Money aims to bring simplicity to the UK banking market which has traditionally been a complex sector," he added.

Virgin Money said it would inject 37.3 million pounds ($A58.25 million) of new capital into Church House Trust.

Britain's retail banking sector was thrown into chaos by the credit crunch, causing the nationalisation of Northern Rock and multi-billion-pound bailouts of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group.

LBG was meanwhile created last year following a government-brokered deal to merge ailing HBOS bank with its stronger rival Lloyds TSB.

"The financial crisis has tarnished the reputation of many UK banks," Virgin Money chief executive Jayne Anne Gadhia said on Friday.

"Virgin Money will provide a better, different form of banking to its customers, increasing competition in the sector."

Gadhia added: "Our approach to banking is founded on developing a sustainable, savings-based business. We see the acquisition of Church House Trust as a strong and sensible first step in delivering Virgin Money's banking ambition."

Meanwhile, Church House Trust chairman David Batten said Virgin was set to benefit from the bank's "conservative business model".

Virgin's announcement comes as Britain's biggest retailer, supermarket giant Tesco, has made its own recent moves aimed at attracting more customers away from Britain's traditional banking sector.

Last October, Tesco relaunched its financial services division as Tesco Bank.

In Britain there has been widespread public anger over the global financial crisis and subsequent recession.

Britain begins 2010 as the only top economy officially in recession after the eurozone, France, Germany, Japan and the United States last year each emerged from the most severe downturn since the 1930s.

However official data due later this month is expected to show that Britain returned to growth in the fourth quarter of last year.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Casino stocks soar on strong Macau gambling revenues - 4th January 2010

SJM hits 2-mth high
Wynn Macau at 3-wk high
Macau revenues in H1 2010 seen very strong - CLSA

HONG KONG, Jan 5 - Shares of Macau casino operators rose on Tuesday on reports that gambling revenues in the enclave in December rose 48 percent from a year earlier, signalling sustained growth in the world's largest gambling market.

Shares of Sands China (1928.HK), the Macau unit of Las Vegas Sands (LVS.N), rose as much as 4.72 percent to a near three-week high of HK$10.42, while Wynn Macau (1128.HK), the Macau unit of Wynn Resorts (WYNN.O) advanced 3.56 percent to a three-week high of HK$9.89.

SJM Holdings (0880.HK), Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho's flagship firm, gained as much as 5.7 percent to its highest level in more than two months at HK$4.63.

Macau casino revenue rose 48 percent to 11 billion patacas ($1.42 billion) in December compared with a year earlier, according to a report from Susquehanna Financial that cited Portuguese news agency Lusa.

"The first half will be very strong; we should see momentum maintain," said Aaron Fischer, CLSA's head of Asian consumer and gaming.

"We believe the earnings will surprise significantly on the upside," Fischer said. "Revenue growth has been very strong for the last few months and these companies have been cutting costs a lot."

Fischer expects Macau gambling revenues to rise 17 percent in 2010. In 2009, gambling revenues rose 10 percent from a year ago.

Fischer's top picks are Wynn Macau, which is slated to open a new Macau resort on April 1, and SJM, Macau's biggest casino operator by market share, thanks to the recent opening of its latest property, "Casino Oceanus."

Shares of Galaxy Entertainment Group (0027.HK) rose as much as 3.1 percent to a two-week high of HK$3.32, while Melco International Development (0200.HK), which is owned by Macau gambling scion Lawrence Ho, rose as much as 3.91 percent to its highest level in more than two weeks at HK$3.72. (Credit: Wires, Google News, AP, Reuters, Media Man)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

World's tallest building opens - 5th January 2010

The world's tallest building has opened with a bang in the emirate of Dubai, measuring a whopping 828m in height.

To give you an idea of how tall that actually is, ninemsn's graphic editors have calculated what the skyscraper would look like if it was positioned in the centre of Sydney.

The engineering marvel dwarfs existing skyscrapers, with the previous tallest building in the world, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, reaching a comparatively modest 508m.

The building was named in honour of United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan. (Credit: NineMSN)