Universal: Manila Bay Resorts Still on Track

Kazuo Okada’s Philippine partnerships have unraveled, but not his plans for a megaresort on Manila Bay. The tycoon’s Philippine subsidiary said the $2 billion complex (l.) will open on schedule in 2015.

The Philippines operating subsidiary of Kazuo Okada’s Universal Entertainment said a partnership dispute will not prevent its US billion Manila Bay Resorts from opening on schedule in the third quarter of 2015.

The partnerships assembled by a Universal investment group led by a company called Eagle I Landholdings have unraveled. First Paramount Holdings 888, a property developer, withdrew from the project, and Eagle I has terminated its deal with the other partner, Century Properties Group, which is contesting the termination in court and has won an order to halt it good for 20 days.

Century claims its deal remains valid with Eagle I because other partners can be found to replace Paramount. Century blames their dispute on other issues, which may include the exclusive rights Century had secured under the agreement to develop the luxury retail and residential portions of Manila Bay Resorts. The agreement calls for Century to own 36 percent of Eagle I.

The court order bars the Universal subsidiaries from negotiating with other companies for the duration of the 20-day stay. It also requires the group to produce all documents and information necessary for Century to complete its due diligence on its investment.

Philippine law caps foreign landholdings in the country at 40 percent, and the government had charged that Universal and Eagle I were not in compliance. The partnerships were negotiated last year to resolve the issue, with Century and First Paramount combining to hold 60 percent of Eagle I. But that may now be open to dispute and could affect Tiger’s license, according to PAGCOR, the government agency that licenses and regulates gaming in the country.

Tiger, however, says no. “We project mass hiring of operational staff during our planned opening in the third quarter of 2015,” it said. “We project employment will reach 15,000 both for direct and indirect employees, once our project is finished.”

Manila Bay Resorts occupies five hectares of a special government-sponsored resort district on Manila Bay called Entertainment City. Plans call for 2,000 hotel rooms, 3,000 slot machines and 500 table games, an oceanarium and sports arena and a giant Ferris wheel.