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Empire East to build high-end condos in $2-B Tiger Resort

MANILA, Philippines - Empire East Land Holdings Inc., the middle-income property arm of tycoon Andrew Tan, is diversifying into the high end-segment of the market following its partnership with Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada to build the residential component of a planned $2-billion integrated resort in an area that has become the new battleground for the country’s taipans.

In a text message, Empire East president Anthony Charlemagne Yu said the company would funnel around P45 billion to construct at least 25 upscale residential towers on a 12.95-hectare property within Entertainment City Manila. This is pursuant to a deal it entered into with Okada’s Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. and Eagle 1 Landholdings Inc. to “take the lead with a majority stake in the development of a luxury residential resort condominium project” along the coast of Manila Bay.

Yu said the company is ready to plunk in an initial P10 billion in the residential project, which will be done in phases under the Empire East Elite brand.

“The new brand will cater to more sophisticated, discerning and value-driven customers who want to live in and experience a luxurious and comfortable urban residential community complemented with resort amenities,” Yu said.

He said Empire East is ready to compete head on with sister firm Megaworld Corp., whose projects are targeted towards high-end buyers.

“Empire East will compete with all the developers in the market including Megaworld. This is healthier rather than limiting [the company] into one segment of the market. The market is very active now. ELI wants to have a piece of the high-end market as well,” Yu said.

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Megaworld officials said they see no problem with ELI’s partnership with Okada, saying the competition will purely be on the residential side and should result in an abundance of choices for homebuyers.

Travellers International Hotel Group, a joint venture between Tan’s listed investment holding firm Alliance Global Group Inc. and the Genting Group of Malaysia, is building its own gambling complex at the Entertainment City.

Aside from Okada-led Tiger Resorts and Travellers, the two other groups that were issued licenses to operate a casino at the Entertainment City by the Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp. are Belle Corp., which has teamed up with Melco Crown Entertainment of Australian billionaire James Packer and Macau casino mogul Lawrence HO, and Bloomberry Resorts of port magnate Enrique Razon.

“We are very honored and excited to be a partner of the internationally renowned and prestigious Okada Group,” Yu said.

Okada, who made his fortune supplying equipment to Japan’s huge pachinko industry, is dead set on building his own casino in the Philippines, designed and operated according to world-class standards.

Taipan John Gokongwei’s property unit Robinsons Land Corp. will reportedly provide the commercial aspect of Okada’s integrated resort.

“We believe that Entertainment City Manila will not only be the biggest tourist hub in the Philippines in the next few years but also an excellent place to live in. We foresee that this world-class city will attract one million tourists yearly, and will be a big draw for foreign investors and retirees. Many of these visitors may opt to buy properties for a longer stay or retirement,” Yu said.

“With Empire East’s participation in Entertainment City, we intend to make this place not just a great resort for tourists, but also a great resort community for people to live in,” he added.

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