Lui’s $1 Billion Day Makes Casino Boss Asia’s 2nd Richest

Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. founder Lui Che-Woo’s wealth has leaped by $10.2 billion this year -- and $1 billion in just one day yesterday -- as Macau draws record gaming revenue and his shares hit a new high.

Lui has a net worth of $22.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and is ranked as the second-richest individual in Asia, trailing Hong Kong developer Li Ka-Shing. His fortune is now bigger than that of Lee Shau-Kee, Cheng Yu-Tung, Mukesh Ambani and Gina Rinehart; all overtaken by Lui in 2013. Only Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg and Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad have made more money this year.

The 84-year-old billionaire holds one of six gaming licenses in Macau and competes against casinos owned by Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson, Stanley Ho and his son Lawrence, and James Packer. Lui and his son Francis are expanding their flagship casino Galaxy Macau in the city’s Cotai area, Asia’s version of the Las Vegas Strip, to capitalize on record visits by gamblers from throughout China.

“Travel from China’s central and northern provinces is growing as economic activity spreads from the southern manufacturing base,” according to Bloomberg Industries analyst Tim Craighead. “The trend is benefiting Macau as rising visits from more distant regions boosts overnight stays and pares the city’s reliance on neighboring Guangdong.”

Macau gaming revenue jumped 21.4 percent to $3.6 billion in September from a year ago, according to data from Macau’s Gaming Bureau released yesterday. Revenue surged despite a major typhoon in Hong Kong in late September. Visitors to Macau rose 14 percent on Oct. 1 and 2 amid China’s National Day holidays this week, when hotels are known to triple their room rates.

Record Take

Gross gaming revenue in 2013 is expected to grow 17 percent to $44.5 billion from a record $38 billion last year, according to Deutsche Bank AG analyst Karen Tang in Hong Kong.

Lui was born in 1929, in the city of Jiangmen in Guangdong province, after his family moved back to China from San Francisco, where they had made a fortune running a laundry. In 1934, Lui followed his family as they fled war-torn China for Hong Kong. At the age of 13, Lui began to support his family by selling food on the streets of the British colony.

As World War II ended, Lui bought surplus construction equipment left after U.S. forces invaded Okinawa. He imported machinery to Hong Kong, which was undergoing a reconstruction boom, and made his first fortune.

Crushing Rocks

When he couldn’t sell some stone crushers, he started a quarrying business. The 26-year-old then founded K. Wah Group, whose construction materials have been used in a quarter of all Hong Kong buildings, according to the company’s website. He invested the profits he made from construction into residential property development and later hotels in Hong Kong.

When Macau ended the four-decade monopoly held by Stanley Ho in 2002, Lui’s Galaxy Casino Co., with Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, won one of the three gaming concessions put up by the local government. Within a year, the partners had split the license after a falling out over strategy: Adelson wanted to re-create Las Vegas in China, Lui wanted to cater to Asian tastes.

In 2006, Lui’s StarWorld Macau, where gamblers can bet as much as $250,000 a hand, opened across the street from Ho’s Grand Lisboa. Lui’s $1.9 billion, 2,200-room Galaxy Macau resort opened in 2011.

Galaxy shares have soared 122 percent in the past 12 months and reached a record high yesterday. Lui owns a 65 percent stake in Galaxy directly and through a family trust.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index is a daily ranking of the world’s richest people. Each Bloomberg Billionaire profile contains a detailed analysis of how that person’s fortune is tallied. The index measures the world’s wealthy based on changes in markets, the economy and Bloomberg reporting. Each net worth figure is updated every business day at 5:30 p.m. in New York. Stakes in publicly traded companies are valued using the share’s most recent closing price. Valuations are converted to U.S. dollars at current exchange rates.

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