NagaCorp May Expand License Access: Media

NagaCorp Ltd may sell gambling licenses to foreign companies, allowing competitors access to Naga­World’s Phnom Penh casino mon­op­oly, media reported Monday.

“NagaCorp may consider any subconcession proposal when the timing is right,” Chief Executive Officer Chen Lip Keong told the financial news service Bloomberg on Friday in Phnom Penh.

NagaCorp, which operates Naga­World hotel, retains the sole monopoly on operating casinos within a 200-km radius of Phnom Penh until 2035 and isn’t subject to any legal restrictions on secondary licenses, Chen Lip Keong told Bloomberg.

Chen Lip Keong and Paul Sim­mons, senior vice president of Naga­Corp operations, were both outside the country Wednesday and un­available for comment.

Mey Vann, Finance Ministry financial industry director, said NagaCorp’s announcement caught him by surprise, adding that Naga­Corp would only have the right to sublicense with “agreement of the government.”

Whether gambling operators might be allowed to enter Phnom Penh remains unknown and under the government’s jurisdiction, Mey Vann said by telephone.

“We do not have any plans to allow more casinos in Phnom Penh,” he added.

NagaCorp is Cambodia’s only publicly traded company, listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

About 52 percent of NagaWorld’s revenues come from the public casino floor, Bloomberg reported; total revenues rose 69 percent in 2007 to $144 million.

By increasing local operations, the company is betting that growing wealth in Cambodia, as well as neighboring countries, will increase its gambler base beyond patrons from China, Malaysia and Singa­pore, Bloomberg reported.

NagaWorld has about 350 hotel rooms and 110 gaming tables as of July 2, with current expansion set to house 700 hotel rooms and 300 gaming tables by 2009.

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