By Poyi (Natalie) Leung & Vítor Quintã
The estranged sister of gaming concessionaire Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM) founder Stanley Ho Hung Sun has asked the Hong Kong stock market regulator to investigate whether the company’s directors are “fit and proper” people.
According to the South China Morning Post, lawyers for Winnie Ho Yuen Ki sent a letter to the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing on June 14.
The letter asked both entities to investigate the conduct of Stanley Ho, his daughter Pansy Ho Chiu King, his fourth wife Angela Leong On Kei and Ambrose So Shu Fai, as directors of Hong Kong-listed SJM Holdings.
Asked by a reporter about the possible probe on the sidelines of a scholarship presentation ceremony yesterday, chief executive officer Ambrose So said: “I do not know the details of this investigation but I think you’re referring to some complaints made by Winnie Ho. I do not know what the content is and I’m unable to comment”.
The two siblings have been in a long running dispute, with Winnie accusing Stanley of trying to oust her as a shareholder of SJM’s parent company, Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM). She has filed more than 30 lawsuits against her brother, both in Macau and in Hong Kong.
Winnie Ho now claims the SJM directors have “unreasonably and unlawfully refused and denied payment of dividends due and owing” to her. She has also been denied from sending a representative to STDM board meetings since 2003, the letter adds.
Last April a representative of Winnie Ho was once again blocked from entering an STDM board meeting “on the grounds that she was not a shareholder herself,” her lawyer Albert Ho Chun Yan told media. “However, two years ago there was a change to the Macau law and now any person can represent a shareholder,” he added.
Winnie Ho accuses the SJM directors of failing to fulfil their duties “competently, honestly and fairly” and questions their “reputation, character, reliability and financial integrity”.
Waiting for Cotai land
On the other hand, Ambrose So told reporters SJM is still waiting for the government reply on its application for a land parcel in Cotai, “and so are the other two operators [Wynn and MGM Macau].
“There is no further information we can talk to the press about at the moment. We hope that we will get good news at the end of this year,” So said.
Asked whether SJM has the intention to invest in Hengqin, he said if it could have a “synergistic effect” on the corporation and can “coordinate with the development needs of our group, of course we will consider that […] because Macau is small after all”.
Yet, he stressed that at this moment SJM doesn’t yet have a “specific investment plan in Hengqin, but it should aim to support our gaming and entertainment industries in Macau”.
With regard to his forecast for 2011 gaming performance, the SJM Holding’s CEO predicted: “If the overall international financial market doesn’t fluctuate much and China can maintain stable growth, I believe with further regional integration of the Pearl River Delta including Hong Kong and Macau and the advancement of the transportation network, there is potential for an optimistic result in the second half of this year.
“So far I can’t see any negative factors that may affect the gaming industry,” he said referring to the current economic situation in the US.
“As an international city we are all concerned about economic conditions but I think this region is more confined to the stability and growth of the Chinese economy,” So added.
SJM yesterday presented scholarships to 10 high school graduates whose parents work for the gaming operator. Each of them have been awarded MOP 20,000 and will receive the same amount per year thereafter until they complete their university studies.
Another three scholarship applicants received commendations from the selection committee and were also awarded MOP 3,000 each as a token of encouragement.