Asia round-up: Suncity future in "significant doubt;" The Star troubles deepen & more

Suncity Group releases 2021 annual results detailing $308m in debts 

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Much-maligned junket operator Suncity Group has released its annual results for the year ended 31 December 2021, in which the company details consolidated debts of over HK$2.4bn (US$308m). 

Moreover, the junket operator notes that the debts accumulated have cast “significant doubt” over the continued existence of the group.  

The statement read: “The above conditions indicate the existence of material uncertainties which may cast significant doubt about the group’s ability to continue as a growing concern.” 

Suncity Group’s previous chairman, Alvin Chau, was arrested following his alleged links to cross-border gambling and money laundering. The junket business Suncity has been in a well-documented state of disarray ever since.  

Suncity’s release of its full-year results also comes following a strong indication from Macau’s Second Standing Committee that the junkets business will be phased out.  

And recently, Gambling Insider spoke with Jason Ader, who claimed the junkets business is all but finished in Macau. 

As a result, it is looking increasingly likely that Suncity’s operations may be winding down soon, particularly with the phasing out of junkets in key Asian locations, including Macau.

Securities class action launched against The Star 

The Star Entertainment Group has been served with a statement of claim for a securities class action in the Supreme Court of Victoria. 

Served by Slater & Gordon, the claim alleges that the Australian operator failed to comply with continuous disclosure requirements, and engaged in misleading conduct regarding its systems and operations. 

Such allegations refer to the ongoing inquiry from the New South Wales Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA), as well as previous media reporting. 

A statement from Crown to the ASX, authorised by the company’s board of directors, noted: “The claim alleges The Star failed to comply with continuous disclosure requirements and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct between 29 March 2016 and 16 March 2022, through various alleged disclosures or non-disclosures about its systems, controls, operations and regulatory risks.” 

The operator added that it intends to defend the proceedings. 

Earlier this week, The Star Managing Director and CEO Matt Bekier tendered his resignation, following issues raised in the public hearings in connection with the review. The group’s board accepted his resignation. 

Established under the Casino Control Act 1992, the review was commissioned in October 2021. Last week’s public hearings heard that Bekier reacted angrily to a 2018 report by global audit firm KPMG, which raised concerns about anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. 

“The above conditions indicate the existence of material uncertainties which may cast significant doubt about the Group’s ability to continue as a going concern” Suncity Group, Annual Statement

Bekier’s final departure date has yet to be determined, but The Star confirmed he will step down from the board immediately. He will, however, work together with the board to “transition his executive responsibilities in an orderly manner.” 

Macau hotel occupancy rate up 10% year-on-year 

The average occupancy rate of guest rooms in Macau rose by over 10% year-on-year to 49%, despite stringent Covid-19 measures persisting throughout all of 2021 and the start of 2022. 

Three-star hotels led to the increase in occupancy rates, according to Macau’s Statistics and Census Service (DSEC), with 51% more occupancy in guest rooms in February 2022 than in the same month of 2021. 

The number of guests of Macau’s hotel establishments using any of their services (not just rooms) increased too.  

Hotel guests in February increased 29% year-on-year to 493,000. Most guests were, understandably, from China’s mainland, which accounts for 396,000 of Macau’s hotel and IR guests. This is a 31% rise in guests from February 2021.  

Local guest rates rose, too, with 25% more local guests in February 2022 than in February 2021.  

February 2022 saw 6,000 visitors join local tours and 3,600 Macau locals purchase outbound services, which include transport, accommodation and sightseeing purchases.  

The number of Macau’s visitors joining local tours, combined with tour rates in January, represents a 317% rise in tour customers year-on-year.  

February, too, saw local Covid measures reintroduced in local Macau provinces, including Guangdong.

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