Melco JV in need of $1.4b casino loan - Wednesday 7th of December 2005

Crown Macau, a joint venture between Stanley Hos Melco International Development and Australias largest casino operator, is seeking a HK$1.4 billion loan to fund the construction of a casino and hotel development in Macau, bankers said.

Macaus Banco Nacional Ultramarino and Bank of China Macau are arranging the seven-year loan that will earn participating bankers fees of more than 220 basis points of the total deal size.

That is low compared to other casino financings in Macau. "People may expect a bit higher pricing, but for this case the amount borrowed is relatively small compared to the net asset value of the property," said one banker who was looking at the deal.

Wynn Macau paid banks 375 basis points in fees at the end of 2004 when it borrowed US$397 million (HK$3.09 billion) for seven years. The Venetian, meantime, is likely to pay an interest margin of 275 basis points over the London interbank offered rate on a US$2.5 billion loan that is entering syndication. Total fees, including commissions and other deal-related levies, will be slightly higher.

Syndication of the Crown Macau deal is expected to close later this month or early January, bankers said.

The HK$1.5 billion Crown Macau project, on Taipa island, will contain 227 hotel rooms and a 200-table casino with 1,000 slot machines. The casino is slated to open late next year, followed by the hotel in early 2007.

Sydney-listed Publishing & Broadcasting, Melcos joint venture partner, owns the Crown Entertainment Complex, Australias largest casino, just outside Melbourne. The development also contains a hotel.

Melco, run by Stanley Hos son Lawrence Ho, owns 60 percent of the joint venture. PBL owns the remainder after the joint venture paid HK$400 million in July to buy out Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macaus 30 percent stake.

The joint venture is also developing the City of Dreams complex on Cotai

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