eSun plans $5b Cotai complex - Sunday 12th of June 2005

Lai Sun Group's media unit, eSun Holdings, plans to team up with overseas partners on an HK$5 billion hotel-casino-residential-TV studio complex in Macau's Cotai reclamation area.At least one of the two planned four-or five-star hotels will have a casino. Each hotel could have up to 100,000 square feet of gaming space.The company, whose units produce films and TV shows, said it has yet to decide whether to operate the casino itself or farm it out to another company.

The company is in preliminary discussions with unidentified overseas investors, including American and Southeast Asian companies.The project is expected to comprise a total gross floor area of about 3.7 million square feet. The site covers about 1.52 million sq ft.Chief executive Mark Lee said after eSun's annual general meeting Tuesday that the company had yet to decide whether to enlist a partner for the entire project or just certain parts of it. ESun can provide land, while our future partner may be responsible for paying for the construction costs, which are estimated at more than HK$3.7 billion, or at least HK$1,000 per square foot,'' Lee said. Property analysts estimate the project will require a total investment of more than HK$5 billion, including building costs and the land conversion premium to be negotiated with the Macau government.

Construction is expected to start before the end of this year. The first phase, comprising a hotel, casino and shopping mall, would require three years to complete.The first phase will be financed through bank borrowings, capital injections from strategic investors and partners, and other sources.For the residential component of the project, eSun has joined forces with the group's mainland property arm, Lai Fung Holdings, to build 30 detached houses.ESun's development plans have received conditional approval from the Macau government. The company must still apply for a rezoning of the land and sign a formal contract to lease the site.Shares of eSun Holdings rose 5 percent Tuesday to close at HK$2.10 per share.

www.thestandard.com.hk

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