Increasing headwinds in the gaming market of Vladivostok – the Russian city that is home to the company’s flagship Tigre de Cristal integrated resort – is likely behind a decision by Chairman Lawrence Ho to sell his entire 17.37% stake in Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd, according to analyst Grant Govertsen.
In a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday, Summit Ascent revealed it had been informed by Ho of his intention to sell his interest via a placing agent, with the placing expected to be completed by this coming Wednesday 20 December. He can expect to pocket around HK$271.6 million for the sale with his 258,634,464 shares to earn HK$1.05 per placing share.
Ho, who had already sold his stake down from 27.71% earlier in the year, currently owns 1.34% of the company’s issued share capital directly and another 16.03% through his wholly-owned subsidiary Quick Glitter.
Commenting on the sell-off in a Monday note, Govertsen pointed to three key factors as seemingly being behind the move.
“We had downgraded shares of Summit Ascent last month due to a variety of factors, including that the company’s Chairman, Lawrence Ho, had begun to pare down his holdings,” Govertsen said. “At the time our view was that Mr Ho likely saw better opportunities elsewhere given the confluence of factors that have kept the Vladivostok market from reaching its full potential.
“The headwinds still include: 1) the potential for the gaming tax (a per device fixed fee) to double next year, and potentially increase by a factor of 10x over the next several years; 2) numerous illegal gaming venues in closer proximity to the population base remain an impediment to the high-margin mass market story; and 3) given the above, the likelihood of the company’s Phase 2 project (and the other peer ground Phase 1 developments) becomes diminished by the day.”
In November Summit Ascent flagged the possibility of its gaming tax doubling should the Russian Federation pass a draft bill proposing an increase to allowable tax rates. Under its current tax responsibilities at Tigre de Cristal, located in Vladivastok in the Primorye Integrated Entertainment Zone, Summit Ascent pays the maximum rate allowed by law of RUB9,020,000 (US$154,770) per month – equal to RUB125,000 (US$2,145) per gaming table and RUB7,500 (US$129) per gaming machine. If passed, the new law would see a doubling of the maximum monthly tax rate to RUB250,000 (US$4,290) per gaming table and RUB15,000 (US$258) per gaming machine. Tigre de Cristal has 55 gaming tables and 286 gaming machines.
“There will be a negative impact of approximately RUB9,020,000 (US$154,770) on the monthly gaming tax payable of Tigre de Cristal, equivalent to an annual negative impact of approximately RUB108.24 million (US$1.857 million) assuming that the same number of gaming tables and gaming machines will be in operation as in September 2017,” the company said at the time.