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London – International casino operator Kerzner International Ltd confirmed on Monday that it owned some bonds of the UK’s London Clubs International Plc and said it was eyeing gaming opportunities in the UK.
But the company, owned by Sol Kerzner, the South African gaming tycoon who created Sun City, said it held only about $15m of London Clubs’ debt, quashing reports that its holding was worth several times that amount.
London’s Times newspaper reported on Sunday that Kerzner had bought £50m ($77.2m) worth of bonds in London Clubs, which runs casinos in Britain, South Africa, Egypt and Lebanon, in preparation for an expected bid for the debt-laden group.
“In light of recently published reports about a completed transaction suggesting that the company acquired 50 million pounds of debt of London UFABet Clubs International (LCI), the company announced that it in fact owns $15m of LCI’s senior notes, which it acquired in July and for which it paid approximately $13m,” the company said in a statement.
Kerzner said that it was correcting press reports despite its policy of not commenting on market rumours. London Clubs’ shares rose 14.71% to 19p in afternoon trade on hopes of a bid. The stock has slumped from a peak of over 400p in 1997.
Kerzner’s shares rose 0.33% to $24.38 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Kerzner, which owns the Bahamian resort Atlantis, said it was evaluating gaming opportunities in the UK.
“The company believes that the expected deregulation of gaming in the United Kingdom will have a positive impact on the UK gaming market and is monitoring the progress of deregulation. The Company in the past has had, and it in the future may have, some discussions with LCI,” Kerzner said.
On July 30, London Clubs said its creditors had extended its debt facilities for two years until June 2004.
But the group, hurt by the collapse of its Las Vegas resort Aladdin which filed for bankruptcy in September, said operating profits for the year to March were all but wiped out by the costs of servicing its debts, the costs and fees connected with the refinancing, and start up costs linked to its South African casino opening programme.
London Clubs has been viewed as a takeover target, with Britain’s Stanley Leisure Organisation Plc, Rank Group Plc and privately-owned Gala Group all indicating an interest in buying part or all of London Clubs.
The company in January said it had not received a takeover offer and was not soliciting one.