International Entertainment Corporation (IEC), the casino and hotel property leasing firm controlled by the Cheng family, has entered into a pre-agreement term sheet to purchase English League One football club Wigan Athletic.
The deal, which will see IEC acquire the entire share capital in Wigan Athletic Holdings Limited – the majority shareholder of Wigan Athletic AFC Limited – as well as the direct shareholding of the trustees of the Whelan Family Bare Trust, provides a 14-day exclusivity period through to 14 February 2018 before which IEC and the current owners will commence negotiation of a definitive share purchase agreement.
Detailing the reasons for its purchase in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock, IEC said that although it is “principally engaged in hotel operations and leasing of properties for casino and ancillary leisure and entertainment operations … it has continued to review the existing principal businesses of the group and look for potential business opportunities in order to diversify the group’s business.
“The proposed acquisition, if materialized, represents a good opportunity to diversify the income stream of the company and broaden its revenue base.”
The company added that purchase of Wigan Athletic “may constitute a very substantial acquisition for the company.”
IEC currently leases a casino-hotel in Manila as well as office space to Philippines gaming regulator Pagcor. It previously owned a 40% stake in Arc of Triumph Development Company, operator of casino resort L’Arc Macau, but sold its interest in 2010.
It had also explored the possibility of buying a 75% stake in Macau junket operator Suncity International Holdings for US$948 million in 2014 but the deal fell through. IEC announced in late 2017 that it was focusing its casino and gaming business on its Philippines holdings while exploring further opportunities in Vietnam.
IEC, headed by Henry Cheng following the death of his father Cheng Yu-tung in 2016, is owned by the Cheng family’s Chow Tai Fook Holdings, which also holds a 10% stake in Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau SA (STDM) – the parent company of Macau casino concessionaire SJM.