Business World

Thursday 2 October 2014

The Punt - Billionaire Packer plots return to Las Vegas

Published 02/08/2014 | 00:00

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06:  James Packer attends the ceremony to announce the Flag Bearer for Australia at the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony at the Golden Tulip Hotel on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06: James Packer attends the ceremony to announce the Flag Bearer for Australia at the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony at the Golden Tulip Hotel on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Australian billionaire James Packer is plotting a return to Las Vegas after losing almost $2bn during the 2008 credit crisis from badly-timed North America casino investments.

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Packer, chairman of Australia's Crown Resorts., is in talks to develop a Las Vegas Strip resort on land once occupied by the New Frontier Hotel and Casino after buying a piece of a loan backed by the property, sources said. He is now negotiating a potential deal with the other creditors.

Any deal would mark Packer's return to Las Vegas after losing money on investments including Fontainebleau Resorts and Cannery Casino Resorts. It would also breathe new life into the 34.5-acre site of the former New Frontier after plans by Israeli businessmen Nochi Dankner and Yitzhak Tshuva to build a casino resort there stalled.

Packer is already the biggest shareholder in Crown, which jointly owns Melco Crown Entertainment. Melco in turn runs casinos in Macau, China, and Packer could bring a network of Asian gamblers to the proposed venture. Packer, who is the world's 208th richest person with a net worth of $6.7bn, is determined.

He said back in 2012 that his Vegas investments were his worst to date.

Spider-Man boost for Sony

Spider-Man's most important battle may have always been between himself as the ever ordinary Peter Parker and the extraordinary superhero, but it seems he may have won another fight for tech giant Sony.

The Japanese corporation posted a surprise quarterly profit as the 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' rejuvenated box-office receipts for its Hollywood studios and the PlayStation 4 topped sales for game consoles.

Games such as Electronic Arts' 'Madden NFL 15' gave the PS4 momentum, while the hit movie grossed more than $700m (€520m) globally and Pharrell Williams' hit song 'Happy' sparked a recovery in entertainment.

Shareholders also had a smile on their faces as Sony jumped 4.7pc, the biggest gain since June 2013. Net income rose to Yen 26.8bn (€194m) in the first-quarter, compared with Yen 3.5bn a year earlier.

Entertainment content, consoles and mobile devices underpin chief executive Kazuo Hirai's efforts to revive Sony since he took over in 2012. "Hirai's reforms are starting to produce results," said analyst Makoto Kikuchi, of Myojo Assets.

However he won't be counting his yen just yet.The company expects to sell just 43 million Xperia smartphones this year, down from its forecast of 50 million, and its mobile products unit posted a quarterly loss of Yen 2.7bn.

UK bright lights for Mulryan

In keeping with the Irish obsession with house prices, The Punt likes to keep tabs on how things are going in the housing markets of some of our near neighbours.

It was with great interest then that we read a piece extolling the virtues of London's Royal Docks, which is being pitched, with apologies to Amsterdam, as a sort of "Venice of the North".

The area in east London was once the busiest docks in the world but fell into disrepair and is now being rejuvenated. The article in the 'Evening Standard' newspaper said the area would be a thriving city in "less than 20 years" and may well be the answer to London's housing crisis.

Now, the 'Standard' may well be correct, but The Punt went for a wander around the Royal Docks earlier this year, and it will clearly be some time before the area is a "thriving city".

There are numerous plans for the zone, but most are still at the planning stage at best and are years from construction. They will not be built overnight.

One man who is backing the plan is developer Sean Mulryan. Mr Ryan's Ballymore is heavily involved in the area, working on the Royal Wharf development among others.

For his sake, let's hope the Royal Docks plan works out.

Irish Independent

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