Universal’s Okada Considers Partner for Philippine Casino

Universal Entertainment Chairman Kazuo Okada
Kazuo Okada, chairman of Universal Entertainment Corp. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Universal Entertainment Corp. Chairman Kazuo Okada, the Japanese billionaire in a legal dispute with Wynn Resorts Ltd., said his company is going ahead with plans for a casino resort in the Philippines and may tie up with a local partner.

Okada, whom Wynn Resorts has accused of making improper payments to gambling regulators in the Philippines, said in an interview yesterday that he hopes to fund about 70 percent to 80 percent of the Manila project with his company’s capital. While as much as 30 percent may be financed with debt, a partnership could reduce the need for a loan, he said.

The expansion plan shows Okada’s ambitions to expand outside the Japanese pachinko business. Construction on Universal’s Manila Bay Resorts began in January and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.

“With projects like these the loan portion is usually bigger,” Okada said in Hong Kong before the opening of a restaurant by K.O. Dining, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Universal. “If we enter into a partnership we may not even need any loans.” The company is considering a partnership with a local shopping-mall operator in the Philippines, he said.

Universal Entertainment shares dropped 2 percent to 1,695 yen at the close of Tokyo trading. The stock is down 20 percent for the year compared with a 1.4 percent gain for the Topix Index.

Okada declined to comment yesterday on the Wynn dispute. He didn’t specify whom he was talking to regarding a Philippines partnership, saying only that a decision on the arrangement may be concluded within three months.

The Manila casino resort is scheduled to open in the first half of 2014 and to include more than 1,000 hotel rooms and 500 gaming tables. The company has said it plans to spend $2.3 billion on its project.

Redemption Forced

Okada, through Universal, had the largest stake in Wynn until February, when Wynn forcibly redeemed the 20 percent holding. Wynn accused Okada of improperly giving more than $110,000 in payments and gifts to regulators and their families, according to a Feb. 19 statement by the Las Vegas-based casino operator.

Wynn’s Macau unit ejected the Japanese billionaire from its board in February and Philippine President Benigno Aquino ordered a probe into payments allegedly made to the nation’s top gaming regulator.

The Japanese billionaire filed counterclaims in a U.S. federal court, saying Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn runs the company as his “fiefdom” and asking the court to invalidate the redemption of his shares at an $800 million discount.

Okada said this month that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had asked to interview him in connection with an inquiry into a $135 million Wynn Resorts donation to the University of Macau, in China.

Okada sought a court order in January to back his position that as a director he was entitled to inspect Wynn Resorts’ books and records regarding the donation.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE