A change in majority shareholding has boosted Macau’s embattled Suncity Group Holdings as its stock price more than tripled on Thursday.
The shares resumed trading for the first time in nearly two months after its former chairman Alvin Chau was arrested on illegal gambling and money laundering charges.
He is due to be tried in September and has been detained pending his trial, while Suncity, one of the biggest Macau gambling groups, has denied wrongdoing.
Andrew Lo, the company’s executive director, has become Suncity’s new majority shareholder. Its stocks rose over 200% on Thursday before paring gains to be 120% up at noon Hong Kong time.
Suncity, a Macau junket operator which brings in high rollers to gamble in the city’s VIP parlours, has been hit by a series of blows, from Chau’s arrest last year to the collapse of the Macau gambling industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beijing has taken aim at illegal capital outflows from the mainland, cracking down on the opaque junket sector and secretive banking channels.
Macau’s government has tried to rein in the role of the junket operators with a new law barring dedicated junket rooms in casinos. Their influence is likely to be further diluted in future, analysts have said.
But the regional office of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has warned that the crackdown on junket operators in Macau is forcing them to relocate to areas in Southeast Asia, such as ‘special regions’ in Myanmar near the border of China’s Yunnan province.
UNODC regional chief Jeremy Douglas said in June there are already over 200 casinos in ‘special regions’ in northern Myanmar and other enclaves in the Mekong sub-region, many with online gambling operations that target mainland China.
He said some of the “Special Economic Zones” in Myanmar and northern Laos are controlled by organized crime gangs because these areas are overseen by ethnic militias in the Wa, Mong La and Kokang regions in northern Shan State, and there is little law enforcement by local authorities.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell and Jim Pollard