BUSINESS

PhilWeb to place shares in Hong Kong; Resorts World Sentosa’s dolphin dilemma

TAGs: dolphins, Philippines, PhilWeb, Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore

philweb-resorts-world-sentosa-dolphinPhilWeb Casino Corp. (PCC), a wholly owned subsidiary of booming Philippine gaming firm PhilWeb Corp., has announced it plans to place 137.5m PhilWeb shares on the Hong Kong market. Earlier this year, ePLDT, a division of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., sold 397.89m PhilWeb shares (27% of the company) back to PhilWeb for P4.3b (US $102.6m). PhilWeb agreed to acquire ePLTD’s stake in four tranches, the first of which – roughly 93.5m shares at P10.70 each – changed hands in July. For compliance purposes, PhilWeb assigned the obligation to buy the remaining three tranches to PCC. The Inquirer reported that UBS AG and Religare Capital Markets would handle the sale of the 137.5m shares, which will be priced at P15 for a total haul of P2.06b.

Sticking with the Philippines, the government announced on Thursday it had authorized the transfer of 25 ‘show dolphins’ to Singapore after a court lifted an injunction barring the animals from leaving the Philippines. Agence France-Presse reported that the bottlenose dolphins are bound for Genting’s Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) integrated resort casino, where they will be put to work as croupiers, er, entertainers. (See, this is the result of Singapore’s insistence that its casinos offer more than just gambling.)

Originally caught in the wild near the Solomon Islands, the dolphins were reportedly shipped to a marine entertainment park in the Philippines in late 2008 to be trained how to deal baccarat, er, perform aquatic tricks. The Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) claimed the dolphins’ owners had contravened international treaties regarding threatened species and obtained a court order blocking the transfer. But Judge Evangeline Marigomen lifted that order on Wednesday, saying the dolphins’ advocates had failed to prove any laws had been broken.

But until the dolphins are actually serving drinks, er, doing backflips in Singapore, ACRES isn’t giving up. TodayOnline reports that ACRES will file a motion on Friday asking Judge Marigomen to recuse herself from the proceedings based on her courtroom proclamation that “dolphins are pets.” ACRES has also set up a website – www.saddestdolphins.com – to highlight the dolphins’ plight, and the RWS name appears about a kajillion times. It’s safe to say this was probably not the kind of international publicity Genting expected when it agreed to purchase these ‘pets’ in the first place. Regardless, RWS issued the following statement: “Our dolphins are doing well under the care of our team of experienced experts, and we look forward to welcoming them to Singapore.”

Frankly, given that the Philippines’ Entertainment City mega-casino project is preparing to go toe-to-toe with Singapore and Macau for Asian gambling whale supremacy, we think RWS would be wise to suspect a trap. Remember Day Of The Dolphin, the 1973 George C. Scott movie in which dolphins were trained to assassinate the US president by placing mines on his yacht? Well, imagine what 25 mines could do to RWS’ structural integrity. Just like that, half of Singapore’s VIP baccarat salons out of action and a whole lotta whales looking for somewhere else to blow their wad. The outcome is almost too tempting to pass up and the plan is so crazy it just might work. (Disclaimer: this is in no way intended as an endorsement of using animals as weapons of mass destruction. Disclaimer disclaimer: we wrote that because we fear those PETA nutters more than any mere lawyers.)

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