14 Feb 2013

SkyCity keen to take stake in Philippines market

7:36 am on 14 February 2013

SkyCity Entertainment is holding talks with key gaming industry players in the Philippines, saying it is keen to take a stake in the burgeoning market.

The casino operator says the Philippines is one of the most exciting new emerging gaming markets in Asia, as Macau was 10 years ago.

SkyCity on Wednesday reported its half year profit fell nearly 16% to $66.3 million, compared with $78.8 million in the same period a year earlier.

It blames the Rugby World Cup effect, saying the event last year boosted profits by several million dollars which were not repeated this year. It also had a lower win rate from its international business.

Chief executive Nigel Morrison says the firm is working on a number of ways to grow the business, including a casino in the Philippines.

"We have been there a couple of times and (are) very impressed with what we've seen, and (we have) got to know a number of potential partners over there and met the regulators and I think it is a very exciting development."

Mr Morrison says there is potentially a licence to buy but the four main licences in the Philippines are in various consortiums, and SkyCity is working to better understand its marketplace and looking at the best way to move forward.

He says work on the $350 million Adelaide Convention Centre should start next year after striking a deal with the South Australian state government.

Meanwhile, delays to its proposed $350 million convention centre in Auckland in exchange for more gambling facilities are costing it millions of dollars a year.

He says nothing has happened with the Auditor-General's inquiry announced some eight months ago and that comes at a major holding cost for SkyCity.

"We owned a lot of the land on the site, we spent $40 million buying up the balance of the site, but there's also the ... banking facility cost which we're holding in place to do the development, and those facility costs are probably costing us something like $3 million a year."

Mr Morrison says SkyCity hopes to resolve what it's doing with the Government once the Auditor-General's report is released.

Despite the subdued conditions on both sides of the Tasman, Mr Morrison remains confident the company can achieve a full year profit in the $140 millions, in line with last year's result.