Philippines Entertainment specialists set their sights on UK Football

The New World Manila Bay Hotel. Photo by judgefloro / CC BY 4.0

The New World Manila Bay Hotel. Photo by judgefloro / CC BY 4.0

The Hong Kong-listed International Entertainment Corporation, the leasing company behind some of the Philippines’ top entertainment properties, is looking to diversify its portfolio after announcing losses from the last financial year.

IEC primarily operates within the Asian casino gaming and entertainment industries, leasing out some of the Philippines’ most well-known casino and entertainment resorts to PAGCOR, the local gaming regulator. Properties currently within the IEC portfolio include the New World Manila Bay Hotel and Casino, situated in downtown metro Manila.

Despite gaining a 2% increase in revenue for financial year 2017/18 (HK$ 296.4 million) and a 3.9% increase in gross profit over the same period (HK$ 296.4 million), the company’s total losses for the year came to HK$67.3 million, representing a 61% increase in losses from the previous year.

By comparison, the total revenue generated by IEC from the leasing of its properties was HK$188 million, a sum that accounted for 63.4% of the corporation’s total revenue. HK$108.3 million of this was solely generated by the operation of the Manila Bay Hotel and Casino.
In 2017, the corporation was acquired by Brighten Path Ltd, an investment holding company also based in Hong Kong. Since then it has taken steps to “actively diversify (its) business portfolio whilst making efforts to expand current business.” The most notable of these diversification strategies was a new partnership with global poker platform PokerStars and an attempted move into the UK football market.

PokerStars has already established a substantial presence throughout Asia by running professional tournaments such as the Asia Pacific Poker Tour and 2018’s record-breaking Manila Megastack. This new agreement will enable IEC to operate branded poker rooms and run new PokerStars Live events in countries that include Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Cambodia and Vietnam.

IEC’s planned acquisition of Wigan Athletic Holdings Limited, however, marks a notable departure from its current specialism. Wigan Athletic Holdings operates the championship football team Wigan Athletic Football Club, as well as DW Stadium, the team’s home ground. An agreement in principle was struck in May between the conglomerate and the Whelans (the owners of the British enterprise) for a total of £22 million. However, it is still subject to approval from the Hong Kong stock exchange and the English Football League.

Should the deal move forward, the IEC’s plans for the club and grounds include the development of three buildings on the premises: the academy’s sports facility and training ground and the vacant restaurant space situated next to the DW stadium. It will also revamp the club’s “football performance operation” at both the first team and academy levels, as well as implement new strategies to support elite performance.

The corporation will also become involved in the club’s football business operations, with plans to implement a new business strategy focused on developing fan engagement, ticketing, hospitality & retail activities—as well as bringing in new sponsorship endorsements—in order to increase revenues.

The years 2018 and 2019 will also bring further expansion plans for the IEC’s business operations in the Philippines. In addition to renovating its current properties, the company will focus on improving their existing facilities available to tourists in order to create “a seamless travel experience”, which will help establish brand loyalty and expand their current customer base.

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