Billionaire Lim Says Genting Hong Kong Plans to Raise Echo Stake

Lim Kok Thay, the billionaire chairman and chief executive officer of Genting Bhd., comments on his plan to boost its stake in Echo Entertainment Group Ltd. He spoke in an interview in Kuala Lumpur today.

Lim is Malaysia’s third-richest man with an estimated net worth of $7.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

On the Echo Entertainment investment:

“Australia, we bought a stake in there at a time when Mr. James Packer invested first. And now of course Mr. Packer has sold his stake in Echo. We have done nothing since our initial stage, because we have to go through the regulatory process.

‘‘Echo’s stake actually covers two regulators, the state of New South Wales and Queensland. They may not take doubly as long, because the two states have agreed that they will cooperate to process our application, to allow us to go beyond the 10 percent stake.’’

The application ‘‘has been in for a while. So we are just patiently waiting. It’s a two-way process: they 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. My guess is it will go on for a while.’’

On the size of stake Genting wants in Echo:

‘‘We have not formed any views yet, 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 New South Wales. 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 license.’’

On Genting Hong Kong’s involvement in Echo:

‘‘Genting Singapore decided not to do it. It’s really more of who wants to do it. In this case, Genting Singapore doesn’t think it fits into their plans and Genting Hong Kong thinks that it does. Hence Genting Hong Kong bought a small stake. As you can see, it’s a very cautious approach because we don’t want to buy a whole lot and then find that we can’t go beyond 10. So where we are at the moment? It’s what we called it, more of an interested party that has a watching brief on that company.”

On James Packer’s Sydney plan:

“We are sitting and watching. He too, would have to go through the various process that I’m sure the government would set up to encourage investment to become real. Again, it will take some time. The regulators have not told us where we are yet, so we are waiting anyway. At the same time we are watching what’s happening on that side of the equation as well.”

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