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NEWS UPDATES 9 August  2010

Aquino considers US$10billion casino bid

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The Philippine government, under new President Benigno Aquino III is studying a 10-billion-dollar offer from a local tycoon to take over the government's monopoly casino franchise with Malaysian help.

Ramon Ang, vice chairman of food and beverage giant San Miguel, made the stunning offer unofficially in an interview with a Philippine newspaper.

Aquino, who began his six-year term as president on June 30, has said he is looking at privatising state assets to help deal with a growing budget deficit, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) could be sold off.

"The sale of Pagcor fits in well with the president's agenda. Why wait for six years to have 10 billion dollars when you can have 10 billion dollars in just six months," Ang said, according to the Inquirer.

"Isn't this a spectacular deal?"

Ang said he intended to make a formal bid to acquire Pagcor once it was formally put on the auction block for privatisation, the Inquirer reported.

He said he intended to go into partnership with Malaysian magnates Robert Kuok, Ananda Krishnan and Francis Yeoh, according to the report.

"They are all my friends and they are interested in Pagcor," the Inquirer quoted him as saying.

Ang emphasised that he intended to go after Pagcor independently of San Miguel, one of Southeast Asia's leading conglomerates.

A spokesman for Pagcor, Jay Santiago, said privatisation would not occur anytime soon.

"It is not as simple as it sounds. Eventually, there will be privatisation, but that is too far off," Santiago said.

Pagcor, which operates 41 casinos, reported a net income of 29.62 billion pesos (640 million dollars) in 2008.

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