SJM's Cotai Land Grab Bitchslap
I got a bad feeling about this...
The news is abuzz about a recent move by SJM, they are requesting the rights to something esoterically called "sites 7 and 8" on Cotai. Let's put a face on this problem. The piece of land in question was commonly called here on MacauTripping the "Hilton/Conrad/Raffles" site. This picture shows the site as it existed about a year and half ago.
To understand how SJM can request the site, takes some explanation as to how things actually work in Macau. Macau's legal system makes land transfers expensive and time consuming, and so incompatible with a modern boom town. As such what is going on is the SAR reclaims the land, and makes informal promises and agreements on the development, construction begins, and some point later the legal transfer occurs.
So currently we are in the early stage. The government and Sands have made some agreement over the site, and that included a promise of construction. SJM is basically saying now that Sands has not constructed on the site as promised, and thus the agreement is void, and SJM now wants to take over as the new promissory.
The better story here is this could be a rather public test for Stanley Ho's SJM and how well they are able to leverage their behind the scenes contacts. Personal contacts are very important to China business, and this could be the chance for SJM to play this card, one they seem to have been withholding for some time. As the monopoly for years, SJM certainly has the right contacts and influence to make a good effort to get this done.
Meanwhile, who knows what the status of Sands contacts are with the Macau government. They were certainly close with the start of the whole Cotai project. However the relationship has seemed to sour some with the Marina Bay Sands, and Sands's construction delays (of which this is part of). This could give Macau enough of an excuse to let SJM's social magic work.
More importantly though, this could be a tectonic shift in Macau's local identity. SJM has never really made much of a play for Cotai before. SJM has their fingers in a few places, but never have they actually made a commitment to the area. Now SJM wants a prime piece of land in the center of the whole development. It seems like Macau's old institutions are no longer writing off Cotai as Uncle Sheldon's crazy boondoggle.