Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho's IPO survives court challenge from estranged sister

Winnie Ho, the sister of Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho, has filed a last minute petition in court to stop the initial public offering (IPO) of gambling company SJM Holdings. "I want everyone to know we will launch the initial public offering according to plan. We will not let anyone stop us," Stanley Ho said during a meeting with potential investors last week, when he announced the plans to take his company Sociedade de Jogos de Macau Holdings (SJM) public in Hong Kong on Thursday.

Stanley Ho was believed to raise $655 million from the shares (later scaled down to just $494 million), but according to Winnie Ho's petition, the IPO of the gambling company is "contrary to the public interest and the long-standing policy of the Hong Kong government not to promote gambling." Following the lawsuit, a Hong Kong court will decide on Wednesday whether a stock market listing of casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd can go ahead. According to reports, Winnie Ho has filed more than 30 lawsuits against her brother in recent years, most of them in Macau.

Macau casino IPO survives challenge
Billionaire casino magnate Stanley Ho plans to move ahead with his Macau gambling company's debut on the stock exchange next week after a court on Wednesday thwarted a legal challenge from his estranged sister.

The Hong Kong court refused to grant Winnie Ho an injunction to stop the listing of Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, or SJM.

In a written decision, a justice rebuffed her argument that regulators and the exchange should never have allowed the listing because of her pending litigation over SJM's parent company.

It was the latest turn in a bitter public feud between the two sibling tycoons, who fell out in 2001. She has since gone out of her way to stop his company from listing in Hong Kong, and has filed dozens of lawsuits over the years.

Among her many accusations, Winnie Ho says she's owed dividends from SJM. The listing has been delayed repeatedly.

On Wednesday, SJM praised the courts' decision and said its debut on the stock exchange would go ahead on July 16. Its original debut was scheduled for Thursday but postponed by the legal challenge.

The company was "delighted" by the decision, its chief executive, Ambrose So, said at a news conference.

Stanley Ho "of course welcomed the decision," So said. "He said he's very happy to have this decision and support of all regulators."

A spokesman for Winnie Ho's legal case, Donna Yau, said Ho's lawyers were reviewing their options.

SJM sold a 25 percent stake, about 1.25 billion shares, raising about $494 million, most of which the company says it plans to spend on new casino projects.

Stanley Ho, worth more than $9 billion according to Forbes magazine, lost his monopoly in Macau several years ago. Now his 18 casinos must compete with American newcomers like Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp.

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