Casino developer dabbles in energy production, biotechnology and palm oil crops

KT Lim, chairman/CEO of the Genting Group speaks during a news conference at Steelman Design Monday, March 4, 2013. The Genting Group announced plans for Resorts World Las Vegas, a multi-billion dollar resort to be built on the site of the stalled Echelon project.

Genting Properties Worldwide

Interior of Resorts World Sentosa, Sunday Feb. 14, 2010 in Singapore. Resorts World Sentosa,built by Malaysia's Genting Bhd for $4.7 billion, opened Singapore's first casino Sunday. Launch slideshow »

The Genting Group, which plans to build a multi-billion Asian-themed megaresort in Las Vegas, is one of the world's largest gaming companies.

But its footprint reaches far wider than just casinos.

It also deals in palm oil plantations, cruise lines, oil and gas production and biotechnology.

"They've got far-reaching investments you don't see in other companies here," said David Schwartz, director of the Gaming Research Center at UNLV.

The Malaysian company announced Monday it plans to spend between $2 billion and $7 billion to build a 3,500-room resort with a 175,000-square-foot casino on the Strip. It bought the 87-acre site of the stalled Echelon from Boyd Gaming.

Genting paid cash for the land and plans to handle its own financing – a key indicator of success, analysts said.

"Financing is a real important part of it," Schwartz said. "They're able to do this without the kind of debt that can jeopardize a company."

The company also has a proven track record in the resort business. Genting's worldwide properties rate highly with customers, and the company consistently wins international hospitality awards.

Three out of the four subsidiaries of Genting's parent company, Genting Berhad, serve the hospitality and leisure industry.

One of Genting's signature properties is the Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore. It is the country's largest resort and includes a Universal Studios theme park, one of Asia's largest ballrooms, a shopping and dining avenue, hotels, a marine life park and a maritime museum.

The company also operates casinos and resorts in New York, Malaysia and the Philippines. Genting owns six casinos in London, 37 regional casinos in England and is building a $227 million Resorts World at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. It also is developing a multi-use property in Miami Beach and has lobbied heavily to get a casino approved there.

Genting was one of only two companies to win casino projects in Singapore.

"That was a big deal," Schwartz said. "That says quite a bit about the company."

Genting's first foray into the United States was Resorts World New York, which opened in 2011 at the Aquaduct Racetrack in Queens. A year later, the racino was the top slot machine operation in the nation — beating even Las Vegas — with monthly revenues approaching $60 million.

Despite the casino's success, a proposed convention center project at the Aquaduct collapsed after negotiations between Genting and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo deteriorated.

On the energy side, Genting owns a majority share in a gas fired power plant that serves Malaysia's largest utility and is one of the country's most efficient power stations. It is the first power plant first in Asia to use an environmentally friendly hybrid cooling tower that produces no visible plume.

The company also owns two power plants and an electric company in India.

Genting Plantations Berhad owns thousands of acres of palm oil crops in Malaysia and Indonesia. Through that same division, the company in 2007 entered into the biotechnology field with a joint venture with the U.S.-based Synthetic Genomics Inc. to produce alternative energy resources.

In December, Genting and DuPont announced a collaboration to research ways to increase palm oil yields at its plantations.

Despite its versatility, the company's roots lie in hospitality.

Genting founder Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, a Chinese immigrant, was working in 1964 on a hydroelectric power project in the mountains near the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur when he envisioned a holiday destination for the site. The original hotel at Genting Highlands opened seven years later.

Resorts World Genting, as the property is known today, now includes six hotels, 200 shops and restaurants, several showrooms and theaters, business convention centers and 40 rides.

Its First World Resort features more than 6,000 rooms, making it one of the world's largest hotels. Even so, it maintains a 94-percent occupancy rate.

The company also owns a stake in the Star Cruise and Norwegian Cruise lines.

When he died in 2007 at age 90, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong had assets of $4.2 billion.

Genting resorts generally are known for having comfortable rooms and good customer service, according to guest reviews.

"I cant deny the warm and good hospitality given by every single hotel worker there," a reviewer of the First World Hotel in Malaysia wrote last month.

Since 2005, the company's resorts have consistently won World Travel Awards for having the best gaming resorts in Asia and across the world. In 2010, Resorts World Genting won the title of "World's Leading Resort" over the Bellagio, MGM Grand and Venetian.

The racino at Aquaduct also receives many good reviews.

"This casino took me by surprise," one recent guest wrote. "I thought it would be much smaller then it is. It has two large floors consisting of slot machines and some electronic games. It is bright and cheery. The staff are very nice and welcoming."

Although like any casino, it also has its share of detractors.

"I went to this casino several times," another reviewer wrote. "I also spent a lot of money there, and let me say, your chances of winning is slimmer than a thread. I'm very disappointed in the slot machines. They don't pay out."

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