Saipan Casino Operator Imperial Pacific Gets Moody’s Downgrade

Saipan Casino Operator Imperial Pacific Gets Moody’s Downgrade December 1, 2016 December 1, 2016 Paul Butcher
 General December 1, 2016 by Paul Butcher

imperial pacificThe global ratings agency Moody’s Investors have issued a review to downgrade Hong Kong based casino developer Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd.

The company operates the Best Sunshine Live casino on the Saipan Island which is a part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. jurisdiction.

The Best Sunshine Live is the only casino operating in Saipan at the moment and is currently functioning as a temporary casino.

Moody’s has issued a rating of B2 which is five levels below the investment grade to the company’s group. The rating firm had indicated this earlier itself, when in September it gave the group a provisional B2 rating. Moody’s has also pointed out to concerns regarding the management of risk arising from possible money laundering in the Saipan casino. The money laundering allegations have been denied strongly by the company.

Imperial Pacific Resort

The casino in Saipan which opened in November 2015 is currently operating only temporary facilities and be shifted later to the under-construction $7 billion integrated resort Grand Mariana resort. The property will have a US$550-million investment for a permanent casino and a 365-room hotel which is slated for a 2017 opening. Moody’s downgrade is primarily due to its troubles in raising funds for the construction.

In a statement, Kaven Tsang, a Moody’s vice president and senior credit officer said

The review for downgrade reflects our concerns over Imperial Pacific’s lack of funding to complete its Grand Mariana project due to a delay in the issuance of the company’s proposed bonds. The investment will be funded mainly by… proposed bonds. While the bonds have not been issued, the major shareholders have been providing interim shareholder loans to keep construction going

According to media reports, Imperial has planned to sell bonds worth US$650 million in order to pay for the construction. Tsang said that the delay in issuing bonds could result in cost overruns and impact the construction schedule, delaying the opening of the casino. These could ultimately jeopardize their gaming license. This situation could also result in additional debt,increasing their debt leverage beyond expectations.

The ratings company has withdrawn the provisional B1 senior secured rating that it had issued to the U.S. dollar denominated bonds that were to be issued by Imperial Pacific International (CNMI). The withdrawal has been attributed to the company failing to issue the bonds as per its plans.

The company had submitted a filing with Hong Kong stock exchange in September saying that it was undertaking a book building exercise to determine the pricing of the bonds. But so far no update has been filed by the company with the exchange regarding book building for the bonds.

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