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Gambling on Australian-listed Donaco International

Mon, Jun 3, 12:02pm by Staff Writer

Australian-listed Donaco International, owner of border casinos in Cambodia and Vietnam, remains immersed in legal proceedings with its biggest individual shareholder, who doubles as its top competitor.

The Cambodia Daily is reporting that Donaco shares traded over A$1.50 in March 2014 and near A$0.70 when it acquired its main asset, Star Vegas in Poipet.

The shares currently languish below A$0.10.

Australian regulators have seized shares that Donaco’s biggest institutional shareholder, Orchard Capital Partners Asia, didn’t obtain through a loan default by Joey Lim.

Mr Lim co-founded Donaco with his grandfather, Genting Group founder Lim Goh Tong.

The elder Lim envisioned Donaco taking on projects that were too small for Genting, but probably never expected a deal this complicated.

In 2002, grandfather and grandson selected Lao Cai, on Vietnam’s border with China’s Yunnan Province as the site for a small casino hotel.

Lim Goh Tong passed away in 2007 at age 80, and Joey Lim carried on, listing Donaco on the ASX by reverse takeover in 2013.

In November 2014, Donaco completed five-star Aristo International to replace the original Lao Cai property, and in January 2015, signed a deal to acquire Star Vegas, the largest casino in Poipet, the gambling enclave closest to Bangkok.

Poipet has a rough and tumble reputation, but its gross gaming revenue approaches US$500 million in good years

Owning Poipet’s crown jewel made Donaco a regional gaming player, Lim believed, even a contender for Japan.

Donaco paid serious money for Star Vegas, US$360 million to owner Somboon Sukjaroenkraisri, a Thai businessman and politician.

But Somboon agreed to manage the casino for two years, guaranteeing US$60 million annual Ebitda.

Shares dropping, loans defaulted

Donaco shares also accounted for US$120 million of the payment, giving Somboon 18 per cent of the company.

Lim, who went through a divorce last year that he blames for his loan default and is embroiled in legal proceedings over his father’s will with Genting chairman – his uncle- Lim Kok Thay, took leave from his CEO position in December and was terminated in March.

In 2018, Lim missed multiple payments, lender OCP Asia, an Asian-based alternative credit fund, says, and the value of the shares that he provided as security fell below the amount required by covenants to his US$34 million loan.

As a result of these ongoing loan defaults, OCP Asia acquired Lim’s Donaco shares, amount to around 27 per cent of the company, and appointed a receiver over then in February 2019.

Amid its declining share price and Lim’s exit, Donaco has been conducting a strategic review that could recommend selling Star Vegas.

“The most logical purchased would be an operator that is already familiar with the market. The problem with that is the current operators have demonstrated themselves to be fairly parochial in their approach to operations and capital improvements,” Global Market Advisors senior partner Andrew Klebanow says.

“In order for Poipet to significantly grow its market, operators need to significantly improve their product offerings,” Klebanow, whose Las Vegas based firm has a Bangkok office, says.

“Players can find far better experiences in Macau, Singapore, Entertainment City [in Manila] and now Naga2 [Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp’s integrated resort in Phnom Penh].

Once Naga3 is completed, it will finally have the room capacity to go after the Bangkok gaming/entertainment market. Sihanoukville will soon offer a far more competitive product and will be able to go after Bangkok players once there are non-stop flights to Bangkok.”

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