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Biz Buzz: A new Melco

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Biz Buzz: A new Melco

/ 04:13 AM October 09, 2013

Billionaires Lawrence Ho and James Packer, the top honchos of Macau gaming giant Melco Crown, are expected to fly in Wednesday for the rebranding of the group’s gaming partnership with Belle Corp. of Henry Sy.

Melco and SM are set to announce Wednesday afternoon a “major brand and image makeover” of the integrated gaming complex in Pagcor Entertainment City. The project was called “Belle Grande” prior to the entry of Melco. But it will soon undergo a sort of reincarnation. A source from the gaming consortium said this would be an “exciting kickoff event” for the next integrated gaming hub to open at the Philippines’ future Las Vegas-like strip.

During previous visits, Ho and Packer—the men behind Macau’s City of Dreams—visited the first gaming hub to open at the Pagcor complex, Solaire Manila. They must have decided to tweak their master plan to raise the gaming ante.—Doris C. Dumlao

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A new ZTE

Meanwhile, another international brand is also making a major push to change its image, at least among Filipinos.

China’s ZTE Corp.—the world’s fourth -argest mobile phone manufacturer based on 2012 unit sales—will launch Wednesday four new smartphone models that will cater to both first-time users, as well as a full-featured device for more advanced and affluent users (ZTE already has a significant presence locally, known as a supplier of “value-for-money” telecommunications equipment among Filipino telcos, but this is the first time they’ll be venturing into the consumer market).

The move, of course, requires a lot of moxie on the part of ZTE, given that its name has been associated with one of the biggest scams during the administration of former President Arroyo.

And how does ZTE hope to win the hearts and minds of Filipino consumers? None other than through the tried and tested method of … basketball.

Specifically, ZTE is partnering with the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets (whose players are in town) to be the team’s official smartphone for the 2013-2014 season.

Officials are hoping, of course, that Filipino NBA fans will take a second look at the ZTE brand, history notwithstanding.—Daxim L. Lucas

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SM-NBA team-up

As a “legacy” partnership with the NBA brings to the Philippines the first ever pre-NBA season game featuring Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets, the popularity of franchise stars like Paul George and George Hill (of the Pacers), as well as Jeremy Lin and Dwight Howard (of the Rockets), is jacking up ticket sales at the SM group’s Mall of Asia Arena.

As early as the first week of September, tickets were almost sold-out for the game, according to West Avenue Theatres Corp. (WATC), which manages the Arena, SM Cinema, SM Tickets, Snack Time and e-Plus.

WATC senior vice president Edgar Tejerero said talks of a possible partnership with the NBA already started even before the completion of the Arena. And with this NBA partnership, more of such big-time events may take place in the future.

The arena has a capacity of 15,000, which can be extended up to 20,000 with dedicated platforms put up in every section for standing customers.

With this NBA pre-season game, the SM group is super-proud that MOA Arena is making sports history—and that basketball-crazy Filipinos are part of it.—Doris C. Dumlao

Court controversy

Influential and moneyed women seem to be all the rage nowadays, in the wake of the Napoles pork barrel scam.

So much so that one such woman is figuring prominently, we’re told in a convention of Philippine judges being held this week (with the election of its officers scheduled Wednesday).

According to our source, “hundreds” of trial court judges are being billeted at the Century Park Hotel, and they don’t have to worry about spending a single cent.

We’re told that even the “pocket money” of some key judges is being shouldered by a lady whom we shall call “Ma’am A.” Those who deal with her call her “Madam Birkin” because of the pricey bags she likes to give out to judges’ wives.

According to our source, Ma’am A. has successfully influenced the results of the elections of this group, with mostly her friends getting chosen to head the organization. But opposition to Ma’am A.’s influence seems to be growing because support for an alternative party within the group is also on the rise.

Unfortunately for this group of conscientious judges, Ma’am A. is moving heaven and earth to secure a resounding victory for the old guard. (We hear she’s also running for a post in the group.)

Incidentally, the lady is also a member of the judiciary (in an acting capacity) and is known as the go-to person when one wants to get injunctions against search warrants in cases of intellectual property violations.

In any case, the judges are all excited about the “raffle prizes” they expect to take home at the end of the convention, all courtesy of Ma’am A.

No wonder she is being referred to by critics as the Mrs. Napoles of the judiciary. Paging Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and Court Administrator Midas Marquez.—Daxim L. Lucas

In ‘green’ fee, firms see red

To help entice companies to move their headquarters from the traditional central business district of Makati City, Taguig City has offered a list of incentives it hopes would be too good to pass up.

These include lower taxes, better infrastructure and the exemption from the annoying number coding scheme of the Metro Manila Development Authority.

While these perks were more than welcomed by the corporate tenants of Taguig City, particularly within Bonifacio Global City (to which Makati City also has a claim) some are crying foul over what they consider to be a sky-high P100-per-square-meter “environmental impact fee,” or the fee that is supposed to cover, among others, the collection of garbage.

Because of this environmental impact fee, companies end up paying over seven times more in business fees a year compared to those in Makati City.

While the ownership issue is being settled, perhaps the fee structure may be fixed, too.—Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Roving in Indonesia

After a frustrated bid to take over a water concession in Jakarta, Ayala-led Manila Water Co. is not giving up on its attempts to export its water management expertise to Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

MWC is working on another project in Indonesia outside of the capital of Jakarta, said MWC president Gerry Ablaza. Despite a dispute with regulators on a water tariff cut order, Ablaza said MWC’s search for opportunities overseas will continue. MWC has already established a foothold in Vietnam. Indonesia—with a population thrice as large as that of the Philippines—is seen to be another lucrative market.

Meanwhile, Ablaza said the necessary expenditures to prevent a deterioration of the waterworks system in its concession would continue. But he added that other capital outlays would have to be put on hold.—Doris C. Dumlao

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TAGS: Belle Grande, business incentives, China, courts, gaming and casinos, James Packer, Lawrence Ho, Melco Crown, NBA, Philippines, rebranding, SM, Taguig, Telecommunications, ZTE Corp.
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