Tuesday, March 18, 2008

STUFF.co.nz: Sky City under review

Sky City Entertainment has been busy in the first few weeks
of Nigel Morrison's time at the top. Business units are all
under review.

By GARETH VAUGHAN - The Dominion Post | Tuesday, 18 March 2008

News out About Sky City today

SkyCity CEO sees cinema sale within 3 months - Stuff.co.nz
Sky City reviews Adelaide plan - Bloomberg

SkyCity Entertainment Group's(SKC) new boss wants to double to $3 billion the annual value of bets placed by high-rolling Asian gamblers as he strives to turn around the casino operator's recent disappointing performance.

Nigel Morrison, who took SkyCity's helm as chief executive on March 3, says this is the best way to combat the volatile impact on SkyCity's earnings from wealthy overseas gamblers.

The house did well against SkyCity's primarily Asian overseas customers in the December half-year, with $12.6 million in operating earnings from them. This helped push up group net profit, before the $60 million write-down in the carrying value of SkyCity Cinemas, by 36 per cent to $61.3 million.

However, a winning streak by high rollers in the first half of last year led to a $2.9 million loss, helping slash group net profit 23 per cent to $45 million.

Mr Morrison said high-roller volatility stemmed from the fact that the $1.5 billion worth of total annual bets placed by international gamblers at SkyCity's casinos was not enough. SkyCity expects to win about 1.3 per cent of the $1.5 billion.

The challenge for SkyCity, therefore, was to double at least the value of annual high-roller bets: "We need to think outside the square about how we might do that," he said.

Mr Morrison, a 48-year-old Australian, quit a role as chief financial officer of Hong Kong and Macau Casino group Galaxy Entertainment to move to Auckland. He replaced Evan Davies, SkyCity's founding chief executive, who departed abruptly after 11 years with a $2 million payout last June. SkyCity director Elmar Toime held the fort as executive director in the interim.

Including the write-down on SkyCity Cinemas, SkyCity last month posted interim net profit of just $1.3 million. Mr Morrison said SkyCity was talking with two potential buyers of the cinema business and he hoped to have the protracted sale wrapped up within three months. SkyCity Cinemas produced operating earnings of just $2 million in the six months to December.

SkyCity, which owns casinos in Auckland, Hamilton, Darwin, Adelaide, 41 per cent of Christchurch Casino and 55 per cent of one of Queenstown's two casinos, would then be free to focus on improving the performance of those businesses.

Mr Morrison said his mandate from shareholders for the next 18 months was to get SkyCity's casinos "buzzing". The recent $40 million refurbishment of the flagship Auckland Casino's main gaming floor was a step toward this.

Auckland produced $107.7 million of $161.4 million group operating earnings in the December half, but this rose just 0.4 per cent as margins contracted. SkyCity would work on getting the lighting, music, food and service right at Auckland, now that the hard work on the "physical asset" was completed.

"I would hope that in six months we would have made a big impact into all those things."

Disclosure: I own SKC shares

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