New Century loses casino bid - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

Singapore has eliminated at least one Hong Kong bidder from the competition to open a casino resort in the city state.

Officials notified New Century Group Hong Kong of the government's rejection of its proposal to invest in the planned resort or manage its casino, the company said Friday.

New Century has incurred Singapore's displeasure in the past by targeting its citizens with gambling cruises near Singapore waters. The company's stock closed up a cent at HK$1 after the announcement.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced last Monday that the government will move ahead with selecting two winners from among the 19 submissions received. Twelve bidders, including New Century, publicly announced their candidacy, but Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said in a speech Wednesday that 13 bidders have submitted proposals for a resort at one or both of the designated sites.

A government spokeswoman said Friday the number or identity of the bidders still in the running will not be released yet. Terry Lanni, chairman and chief executive of American casino giant MGM Mirage, told US stock analysts during a quarterly teleconference this week that his company and other bidders still in the running will be making presentations to Singapore officials over the next weeks.

``We have heard that two of the original bidders may have been excluded - we don't know who they are - because they did not meet the criteria,'' he said.

There were indications the other unlucky company was Greek Mythology (Macau) Entertainment Group, owner of the new Greek Mythology Casino in Macau. While MGM Mirage and other bidders are preparing to go back to Singapore, Greek Mythology spokesman Angus Ho said Friday that the company has not received any official word about its HK$5 billion proposal.

A third local bidder, a joint venture between Hong Kong-listed Melco International Development and Australia's Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd, is still in the running. The partners last week put the value of their proposal at S$2.5 billion (HK$11.81 billion) and announced that Pei Partnership, a design firm set up by the sons of renowned architect IM Pei, and Bates Smart, which designed the Crown Casino in Melbourne, had been enlisted to help with the submission.

Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang has said the government plans to choose the winning bids by the end of the year with the aim of having the resorts open by about 2009

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