Banks Optimistic About Asian Casino Boom - Thursday 19th of January 2006

HONG KONG – As reported by Bloomberg: "Michael Malone, the head of Bank of America's gambling finance unit, first visited Macao on a Wednesday afternoon in April as horizontal rain pelted the city.

"…Within three weeks of returning to the United States, Malone signed off on Bank of America's first loan to a casino in Macao, a $1.1 billion project by Wynn Resorts, based in Las Vegas.

"…Bank of America is competing with lenders like Goldman Sachs Group and Deutsche Bank to finance Asia's casino boom. Overseas gambling companies have announced $7.2 billion of investments in Macao since the former Portuguese colony first granted them licenses in 2002.

"…The growth of the casino industry in Asia will spread from Macao to Singapore, Thailand and Japan, said Richard Weissmann, a Goldman Sachs managing director in charge of gambling industry investment banking.

"…Malone of Bank of America estimated that casino companies would invest as much as $30 billion in Asia over the next decade. Banks may earn fees of as much as $200 million if the owners finance two-thirds of the projects, as Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts have done in Macao, and the banks charge fees of 1 percent.

"…The gambling industry in the Asia-Pacific region generated $2.7 billion of lending last year, up from $2 billion in 2004, according to Bloomberg data. That amount will grow as companies build more casinos and, later, refinance loans and upgrade properties, Malone of Bank of America said…"

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