Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2004 | 11:26 a.m.
Las Vegas Strip casino-resort giant MGM MIRAGE is denying reports that an agreement on a Chinese casino deal is imminent, but says talks continue with Macau casino boss Stanley Ho's company.
The South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong on Sunday reported that Ho's company Shun Tak Holdings and MGM MIRAGE were expected to announce a joint venture as soon as this week.
Shun Tak today denied a deal is imminent, the Reuters news agency reported.
"We have made no secret of our interest in Macau and have previously confirmed that we have had several conversations with (Ho's daughter and Shun Tak manager) Pansy Ho concerning a possible casino development in Macau," MGM MIRAGE spokesman Alan Feldman said. "These discussions are continuing. If and when a final agreement is reached, we will announce it accordingly."
Ho lost his monopoly on casinos in the former Portuguese colony when the city, now controlled by China, granted licenses to companies headed by Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson.
Wynn and Adelson beat out MGM MIRAGE, which also bid for a license in Macau.
In a research note to investors today, Deutsche Bank Securities analyst Marc Falcone called the denials "somewhat surprising" given the "lengthy discussions we believe have actively taken place over the last 12 months" between Ho and MGM MIRAGE. "However, we also believe some of the negotiations are likely hinging on the passage of the credit legislation in Macau."
Separately, the Morning Post reported Macau casino insiders say Wynn is considering a joint venture in Macau with Las Vegas Strip casino-resort operator Mandalay Resort Group. Wynn and Mandalay officials couldn't be reached for comment on that report.