August 3, 2009 / 7:55 PM / 8 years ago

INTERVIEW-MGM not looking to sell Macau stake

By Karen Jacobs

ATLANTA, Aug 3 (Reuters) - MGM Mirage (MGM.N) sees its Macau joint venture as a growth driver and is unlikely to sell its stake in that business, the chairman and chief executive of the casino operator said on Monday.

But Jim Murren added the company could consider an initial public offering in Asia over time.

The Macau business is “an opportunity of great growth for us in the future and one that we’re firmly, firmly committed to,” Murren told Reuters in an interview after the company posted a second-quarter loss but noted improving trends in convention bookings.

Talk had surfaced that Malaysian conglomerate Genting Bhd (GENT.KL) could be interested in buying out MGM’s 50 percent stake in its joint venture with Pansy Ho in the Chinese gambling enclave after Genting invested in MGM earlier this year. [ID:KLR485891]

“We have not ever had a discussion about selling our interest in Macau to (Genting Group) or anyone else and it’s unlikely that we will sell that interest,” Murren said. He added that MGM was discussing “many other ideas” with Genting.

Murren also said an initial public offering in Asia could be “a logical progression for us and one that could yield great benefit” over time, depending upon market conditions and the success of other companies that could come to market there.

Rival Wynn Resorts Ltd (WYNN.O) has filed in Hong Kong for an initial public offering of its assets in Macau, and market leader Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS.N) is also considering an IPO in Hong Kong for a portion of its Macau operations, sources have said. [ID:N30376586]

Murren also said that MGM was looking to expand in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and other Asian markets, in non-gaming projects, and in gaming projects in areas where gambling is allowed.

“The Middle East and Asia in general are areas of principal focus for us, and the opportunities are far greater there than in Europe or in the United States, particularly in non-gaming,” Murren said.

MGM’s Macau joint venture has recently drawn scrutiny in the United States. In May, New Jersey’s gaming enforcement division issued a report recommending that MGM sever business ties with Pansy Ho.

Last week, New Jersey reopened its review of the gaming license held by MGM and Boyd Gaming Corp (BYD.N) -- a 50-50 venture that operates Atlantic City’s Borgata -- over concerns raised by an investigation of the Macau venture.

Murren said MGM plans to defend its Macau joint venture at a hearing before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission that is due to be held on the matter.

“We have been Pansy’s partner now for over four years,” Murren said. “We have found her to be an extraordinary business person and one that has been a pleasure to be a partner with.”

(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick) Keywords: MGM/CEO

((karen.jacobs@thomsonreuters.com; +1 404 493-3656; Reuters Messaging: karen.jacobs.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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