A Taiwan-based shipping firm is set to test the waters of the Russian casino industry after acquiring nearly 189 million ordinary shares of Hong Kong-listed Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd.
In a filing before the Taiwan Stock Exchange, shipping operator First Steamship Co. Ltd. announced that it had bought equity interest of Hong Kong-listed Kaisheng Holdings Limited, priced at HKD1.05 (US$0.13) per share.
GGRAsia reported that the ordinary shares that Kaisheng sold to First Steamship represents a shareholding of 12.67 percent in Summit Ascent, the company that runs the Tigre de Cristal casino resort in Russia’s Far East.
It isn’t clear whether the Summit Ascent shares that First Steamship purchased are the same shares that casino mogul Lawrence Ho recently divested. Ho sold 20 million shares in Summit Ascent as he looks for other opportunities elsewhere. Quick Glitter Ltd., a company wholly owned by Ho, also unloaded 16.03 percent or 238.6 million shares of Summit Ascent’s issued share capital.
First Steamship decided to get Summit Ascent shares as a “long term investment,” according to the Taiwanese company.
Tigre de Cristal, an integrated resort near Russia’s Pacific port of Vladivostok, remains the only casino property currently open in the Primorsky Krai investment zone.
Financial data showed that Summit Ascent’s revenue rose to HKD 204.6 million (US$26.1 million) in the first half of 2017, while its adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) improved by 62 percent to HKD 57 million ($7.29 million).
The company recorded a net loss of HKD 5.4 million ($690,606) in the January to June 2017 period.
Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen, however, warned that Summit Ascent may face headwinds next year as Russia’s new tax policy may put a dent on the firm’s overall revenues. He believes that Summit Ascent should find other opportunities in nearby gambling jurisdictions like Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
“Even though we’re decidedly less bullish on Vladivostok there are significant opportunities in emerging/frontier Asian markets,” Govertsen said in his note.