Packer eyes bet on Sri Lanka - 1st March 2013
tycoon James Packer may be lining up a bet on Sri
Lanka, scouting the Indian Ocean island for potential
investments as he seeks to build a global casino empire.
Packer, who owns half of casino operator Crown, met
with Sri Lankan ministers this week to discuss hotel
and entertainment investment options, according to
officials who met with him.
have not finalised the area and the amount they are
going to invest. The government has asked them to
come up with a proposal," Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene,
Sri Lanka's Minister of Investment Promotion, told
Reuters on Wednesday. "The government proposed
(for) them to invest in a large city hotel in Colombo
and go to (the eastern city of) Trincomalee to look
into possible investment opportunities."
Secretary P.B. Jayasundera said Mr Packer had expressed
an interest in "integrated tourism", which
typically includes hotels, casinos and other entertainment.
Crown spokesman said the company would not comment
about potential investments in Sri Lanka.
said Mr Packer's interest in Sri Lanka was unexpected.
would have thought their focus would be more with
Southeast Asia rather than somewhere like Sri Lanka,"
said one Australian-based gaming analyst, who declined
to be identified.
Sri Lanka offered some potential for an early mover.
probably not a bad move in some ways," said Akshay
Chopra, a portfolio manager at Karara Capital, who
visited the country in December. "The Sri Lankan
government is making a lot of changes, you've got
China investing a lot of money in Sri Lanka, building
a lot of infrastructure and you're close to India
and a big gaming market there."
Packer is ranked Australia's third-richest person
with a fortune of $US6 billion, according to Forbes.
Last year, he cashed out of his family's publishing
and broadcasting assets for about $US1 billion to
concentrate on his gambling business, which span casinos
in Australia, Macau, Britain and the United States.
Packer's Melco Crown Entertainment plans to build
a $US1 billion casino in the Philippines in partnership
with Philippines' wealthiest man, Henry Sy.
Lanka expects its economy to grow at 7 per cent or
more this year, fuelled by major infrastructure projects,
and is targeting about $US1.5 billion in foreign direct
investment after missing its $US2 billion target in
country has allowed casino gambling off and on since
at least the 1980s and currently has about nine properties
including the Bellagio Colombo, operated by India's
Delta Corp and unrelated to the Bellagio Las Vegas
operated by MGM Resorts.