Manila casino goes public in US$2.6bil deal with Ader SPAC

MANILA (Bloomberg): Okada Manila, one of the biggest casino resorts in the Philippines, is going public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company led by former casino analyst Jason Ader. The deal values the property at US$2.6 billion including debt.

The resort’s current owner, Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp, will merge the property with Ader’s 26 Capital Acquisition Corp and hold an 88% stake in the new business. 26 Capital went public as a shell company earlier this year. It will bring $275 million in cash to the deal, the companies said in a statement.

When present construction is finished next year, the resort will be able to operate 974 gaming tables and two hotel towers with 993 rooms. The merger came just days after the Philippines said it would ease virus restrictions starting this weekend, allowing casinos in Manila to reopen at 30% capacity.

The country, which fell to last place in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking late last month, is seeking to open its borders to global travellers as the number of new cases dropped, allowing some fully-vaccinated international travellers from low-risk areas to enter without quarantine.

The gaming property is located on the waterfront in Manila’s Entertainment City neighbourhood. Current management, including President Byron Yip, will continue to lead the operations.

Universal, a maker of pachinko machines, was founded by Japanese businessman Kazuo Okada. He later got in a fight with casino partner Steve Wynn over construction of the Philippines resort, which prompted the Las Vegas tycoon to buy out Okada’s stake in Wynn Resorts Ltd.

Ader worked as an analyst at Bear Stearns and other firms before co-founding the New York-based investment company SpringOwl Asset Management.

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