Hyatt Hotel & Casino Manila Sold to Investor, Casino Still in Expansion

Property tycoon Cheng Yu-tung has quietly entered the Philippine gambling market in a big way


BW's stock price soared from two pesos a share to 107 pesos (HK$14.80) and officials, including then-vice president Gloria Arroyo, celebrated the return of Ho, who dominated the Philippine casino industry during the rule of strongman Ferdinand Marcos. When BW Resources' stock abruptly nosedived in 2000, official investigations began into potential stock manipulation by local businessmen tied to Estrada, principally Dante Tan, a close Estrada associate, who subsequently fled the country to avoid prosecution.

Estrada allegedly pressured investigators to go easy in their inquiry, and outrage at his interference helped fuel the protests against his rule that eventually led to his ouster in 2001.

Ho was never accused of any wrongdoing in the scandal nor was he charged but he was harshly criticised in the Philippine media at the time and he lowered his public profile in the country to near invisible.

In 2002 Megaworld resumed ownership of Marina Square.

A spokesman for Chow Tai Fook Enterprises said he was unaware of the project. Chow Tai Fook Enterprises is the Cheng family's private investment company.

New World Development, which is controlled by the Chengs, does own a 27 per cent stake in another Manila hotel, the New World Renaissance.

In March of this year, however, Ho returned to the country for the first time to receive an honorary degree from a Philippine university.

At the time, Ho promised to ``invest more in the Philippines'' but disclosed no specific plans and there is no evidence that he is involved in Cheng's Manila casino venture.