Casino firm Landing says chairman unreachable, shares plunge

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HONG KONG (Aug 24): Hong Kong-listed casino operator Landing International Development said it had lost contact with its chairman since Thursday, sending the company's shares down as much as 33%.

Landing's US$1.5 billion integrated casino in the Philippines was thrown into uncertainty this month after President Rodrigo Duterte abruptly halted the project, saying it was unfavourable to the government.

In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange late on Thursday, Landing said it had been "unable to contact or reach" Chairman Yang Zhihui.

Landing said the business operations and financial positions of the group were normal. The company did not immediately respond to a Reuters' request for comment.

Yang, who has been with Landing since 2013 and is the company's controlling shareholder, has his roots in property development in Anhui province in eastern China.

Yang has close connections with Macau junket operators, middle men who facilitate the VIP high-roller gambling business, according to casino executives who declined to be named.

He also has business ties to Huarong International Financial Holdings, the Chinese publication Caixin reported.

Huarong has been facing a liquidity crunch triggered by an anti-corruption probe into its former chairman Lai Xiaomin in April.

Huarong did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Yang owns 50.48% of Landing's issued share capital, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon data.

The company, which opened a casino in South Korea's Jeju island in February 2018, had been vying to set up a casino in Manila's Entertainment City.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, a government-owned and controlled firm under the president's office, granted in July a license for Landing to build the casino.

However, shortly after the company broke ground on the project on Aug 7, a Duterte spokesman said the casino would be cancelled because Landing's lease was unfavourable to the government.