Universal sells stake in Philippine land affiliate

Japan’s Universal Entertainment may have overcome a roadblock that was delaying its $2 billion integrated resort in Manila by selling its stake in a local affiliate that owns the majority of the land on which the casino is being built, according to media reports.

Universal, controlled by billionaire Kazuo Okada, has sold its entire 40 percent stake in Eagle II Holdco to local firm All Seasons Hotels & Resorts Corp for $2.9 million.

“If true, they will be able to address the issue of the nationality problem,” Pagcor President Jorge Sarmiento told Reuters, adding that the regulator had yet to receive official confirmation of the sale.

Under Philippine law, foreign firms are banned from owning more than 40 percent of the land in a venture. Eagle II currently owns 60 percent of Eagle I, the owner of the lot.

The issue had threatened to further delay the opening of the company’s Entertainment City resort. Last week, the company’s local unit was forced to forfeit a $2.2 million deposit by Pagcor over delays related to the project, which is now expected to open in 2016.

The resort is 56 percent completed, according to Matt Hurst, EVP – casino operations and marketing at local unit, Tiger Resorts and Leisure.