Malaysian tycoon bets on IPO for Cambodian casino - Sunday 12th of June 2005

NagaCorp, a Cambodian casino operator owned by Malaysian tycoon Chen Lip Keong, is planning to float its shares on Hong Kong's stock exchange after its listing plan was rejected by Singapore two years ago, sources said.

NagaCorp, which runs the only legal casino in Cambodia's capital city Phnom Penh, has applied to list on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to people familiar with the matter.

The new application would reprise NagaCorp's 2003 Singapore application. It proposed then to sell 20-25 percent of its shares for about S$100 million (HK$468 million) in an offering underwritten by SBI E2-Capital Securities and UOB Kay Hian that would have been Singapore's first gambling listing.

Chen was blocked in 2000 from injecting NagaCorp into a Malaysia-listed company he controls because the Malaysian exchange's rules then declared such overseas operations out of bounds.

Anglo-Chinese Corporate Finance is among the banks working on the Hong Kong application, but not SBI or UOB. A Hong Kong stock exchange spokesman said he could not confirm individual listing applications and NagaCorp executives involved in the application could not be reached.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore blocked NagaCorp's previous application on the grounds that the company's operations were ``not subject to a fully developed and implemented legal and supervisory framework for the regulation of casinos and the prevention of money laundering.''

The agency also faulted the lack ``of an established track record of independent audits of the effectiveness of its internal controls for addressing money laundering risks.''

The Hong Kong exchange only opened its door to gambling-related listings a few months before NagaCorp's Singapore application. Dozens of listed companies have since announced investments in casinos in Macau and other countries as well as cruise ships. Circulars issued by these companies this year have contained provisions indicating the Hong Kong exchange's interest in making gambling firms commit to combating money laundering too.

Since NagaCorp's rejection by Singapore, Cambodia has joined the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering. Joining this alliance of 28 governments committed the country to strengthen its controls on money laundering.

NagaCorp's Singapore prospectus reported the company earned US$29.9 million (HK$233.22 million) on US$61.7 million in revenue in 2002 and US$31 million in profit on US$67 million in 2001.

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