Summit Ascent, the operator of the Tigre de Cristal in the Russian Far East, said its executive director, Eric Landheer, has quit the company due to differences of opinion with the board over strategic business development.
The company said it had received Landheer’s resignation letter on March 23 and had decided to use its discretion to terminate his employment by giving him payment in lieu of notice. He now holds no position within the group.
According to his resignation letter, Landheer said he disagreed with the company’s future investment plan and allocation of financial resources. He also disagreed on the business development plan and the timing of its implementation, as well as corporate governance matters in relation to future or potential actions of the company.
Summit Ascent gave no further details in its filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Last April, Suncity Group became the largest single shareholder in the operator after buying a stake from Taiwan’s First Steamship Company. Following the purchase, Suncity Chairman and Founder, Chau Cheok Wa was appointed as chairman and executive director, while several other senior Suncity executives also joined the board.
Reporting its 2019 results, Summit Ascent said revenue in the year had risen 15 percent to HK$532.8 million ($68.7 million), driven mainly by a strong performance from its slot business, which grew 30 percent to $185.6 million. The slot business is mainly focused on local Russian clientele.
This increase was principally due to the continuous growth in slot handle by 19 percent to HK$3.4 billion in 2019. The average hold percentage also increased to 5.5 percent in 2019 from 5.0 percent. The average number of slots deployed increased by 8 percent to 336 in 2019.
Adjusted property EBITDA was up 18 percent to $214.8 million, while profit attributable to owners of the company jumped to $82 million, from $7.6 million the prior year.
The rolling chip business saw a 12 percent gain to $109.5 million.
Summit Ascent said that in response to the coronavirus, the Russian government had temporarily barred entry to nationals China, Hong Kong and Macau from Feb. 20, though given it is low season, the impact won’t be as high as if it had happened in the key summer months. Still it concedes, it’s impossible to quantify the damage at present.
A new VIP room is nearing completion at the resort and it also plans to add a further 30 hotel rooms this year, by extending the existing property. This expands lodging capacity by 25 percent.