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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Genting takes stake in Australia's Echo, sparks takeover talk...

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Genting takes stake in Australia's Echo, sparks takeover talk...

Singapore gaming operator Genting (GENS.SI) said on Friday it had taken a stake in Echo Entertainment (EGP.AX), raising the prospect of a battle for control over the $3 billion (1.93 billion pounds) Australian casino company with billionaire rival James Packer.

Packer, who wants to use Echo's licence to build a new casino complex in Sydney to attract more Asian high-rollers, has been agitating for change at Echo after building a 10 percent stake in the company, and on Friday succeeded in ousting the company's chairman.

Analysts speculated that Genting, Southeast Asia's largest gaming group, was preparing for an acquisition, having built up a war chest of S$3.9 billion, and said Echo's casinos were in cities where Genting had attempted to win licences in the past.

"At this juncture it does seems like a possibility... They have that war chest and will have to deploy it soon," said Loke Wei Wern, a CIMB Research analyst based in Kuala Lumpur.

A Genting spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the company was considering a takeover offer or to disclose its stake, but Genting said in a statement the total value of its investment in publicly quoted securities was S$298 million. The Australian newspaper said earlier that Genting had built up a 4.9 percent stake in Echo, which runs Sydney's Star casino and Jupiter's on the Gold Coast of Australia.

A full takeover would cost more than A$3 billion and both Packer and Genting would face tough regulatory scrutiny.

Echo said separately that its chairman, John Story, has resigned, bowing to a destabilising campaign run by Packer who owns a rival casino operator and wanted to sack the chairman.

"(John) Story going is more like a soap opera. The money in this saga is with Genting being on board," said Richard Colqhoun, a portfolio manager at Antares Capital, which owns shares in Echo.

Shares in Echo topped the gainers in a broadly weaker S&P/ASX 200 Index .AXJO, rising as much as 4 percent to value the company around $3 billion.

Genting Group, whose biggest assets are Malaysia's Genting Highlands casino complex and Singapore's S$6.6 billion Resorts World at Sentosa, also has stakes in Resorts World Manila and several UK casinos.

The group is headed by Lim Kok Thay, who is chairman and chief executive of Malaysia's Genting Bhd and executive chairman of Genting Singapore, and knows Australia well.

The Malaysian Genting Group was a founding shareholder in the Burswood casino in Perth, which is now owned by Packer's company.

A source familiar with the situation said the board of Echo had not had any discussions with Genting ahead of the news about its stake.

Packer, who has stakes in casinos in Australia, London and Macau, wants to boost his company Crown Ltd's (CWN.AX) 10 percent stake in Echo and win a board seat. Crown had put forward a resolution to remove Story at a July 20 shareholders meeting.

Packer has attracted several former politicians to help with his lobbying cause, including former Victorian state premier Jeff Kennett as Packer's nominee to the board of Echo.

Echo said in a statement on Friday that Story wanted the shareholders to vote on his position, but accepted the board's view that he should resign ahead of the meeting.

"The board of Echo has formed the view that the ongoing disruptive campaign concerning the resolution proposed to be put to an Extraordinary General Meeting of Echo for the removal of Mr Story was damaging to the company, and that it was in the best interests of shareholders that Mr Story not contest the resolution," Echo said.

Crown had argued that Echo was underperforming under Story's leadership.

Echo completed a costly A$870 million refurbishment of its Sydney Star casino last year but has not yet seen a substantial pick-up in revenues, according to analysts.

Crown owns casinos in Melbourne and in Perth, and about a third of Melco Crown Entertainment (6883.HK), which has casinos in Macau. It wants Echo's casino licences in Sydney and the Gold Coast because they are more likely to attract Asian high-rollers than Melbourne and Perth.

Echo's licences are "irreplaceable," said UBS analyst Sam Theodore, adding that Sydney and the Gold Coast would be especially attractive to international VIP players.

Perpetual Investments, Echo's second-largest shareholder after Crown, said it does not intend to support Crown's push for a board seat, according to the Australian Financial Review.

WWE RAW 1000th Episode To Be Massive; Aiming For Mega Rating And To Rocket WWE Into Future...

As the Media Man agency has been reporting WWE creative have been advised to treat the July 23rd (U.S date) 1,000th RAW as a major pay-per-view event. The majority of the writing team and officials’ time and effort at the moment is not so much focused on the WWE No Way Out pay-per-view on June 17th but the celebratory RAW that begins a permanent move to three hours.

Wrestling bible, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports that WWE creative are being pushed hard to come up with a huge angle that will dominate the summer, similar to how the Nexus and CM Punk angles caught on with fans in the past two years. Specifically they have been told to devise a "knock your socks off" type angle that will broaden interest to fans who haven’t watched WWE regularly for the past year.

Many fans are calling for Ric Flair to head up a new breed of Four Horseman clique, as well as a potential DX reunion. Internet chat indicates fans want to see "The Showoff" Dolph Ziggler get a major push, and be managed by "The Nature Boy" (if or when he returns to the WWE). Flair recently left TNA Wrestling under a cloud of controversy, not showing up for bookings.

WWE officials currently feel the current product is stagnant and are concerned about the poor ratings, as well they should be.

Media Man reports that tickets to the live WWE RAW world tour in Australia has been "fairly show", and is a reflection upon things getting stale, as well as longtime fans wanting more mega stars on the international supershow down under, such as The Rock and Brock Lesnar (both of which are not possible at this time). It's unknown if Flair could make the Australian tour, and even if he did, it would be in a non-wrestler capacity. Flair's star power alone would be enough to kick and chop some new life into the current WWE product, plus would offer a massive boost to merchandising.

The Observer's Dave Meltzer also reports that WWE Legends Gene Okerlund, Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper, Sgt. Slaughter, Gene Okerlund, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Jimmy Hart are among those who have been contacted to date about returning for the 1000th episode of RAW. WWE are also looking are other former stars who they haven't used in a long time.

One name that has been mentioned is Bobby "The Brain" Heenan but that would depend on his health. Jesse "The Body" Ventura would also be a hit, even though he's most associated with the Hulk Hogan championship period of WWE, rather than the RAW brand. Unfortunately a number of former RAW legends have passed away such as Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Brian Pillman "The Loose Cannon", Yokozuna and "The Wolverine" Chris Benoit.

WWE are currently planning the an old school production feel to the show. As mentioned previously, The Undertaker is constantly being talked about regarding making a special one-off return appearance on the show in the hopes that it may significantly boost ratings and be the shot in the arm that the RAW brand so urgently needs.

WWE top brass (and rarely seen on screen talent, Vince McMahon and daughter, Stephanie McMahon), are also rumoured. Triple H, husband to Stephanie, almost a lock for the much anticipated show.

WWE are under huge pressure to deliver a strong rating in the three-hour RAW and if they don’t deliver, the switch to a permanent three hours may look like a failure before. To help prevent this from happening, the WWE are looking to follow the formula they use for pay-per-views, i.e. advertising in a three week TV build, announcing a pay-per-view quality line-up ahead of time and ensuring they have a solid card for match quality.

New talent is also likely to appear on the show however the names of who they are interested in introducing are currently unknown.

One thing is for sure - wrestling fans are buzzing about the upcoming 1000th RAW and Australia is buzzing, judging by the internet chat on sites such as the official WWE Facebook.

Marvel Studios Begins Production On Third Installment Of The Blockbuster Franchise "Iron Man"
Marvel's "Iron Man 3" Commences Principal Photography In Preparation for May 3, 2013 Film Release...

BURBANK, Calif., June 4, 2012 - Following in the footsteps of the record-breaking Marvel Studios' release "Marvel's The Avengers," production on the highly anticipated film "Iron Man 3," directed by Shane Black, has commenced production in Wilmington, North Carolina. The production schedule will also include locations in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, Miami, Florida and China.

Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in 1963, "Iron Man 3" returns Robert Downey Jr. ("Iron Man," "Marvel's The Avengers") as the iconic Super Hero character Tony Stark/Iron Man along with Gwyneth Paltrow ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2,") as Pepper Potts, Don Cheadle ("Iron Man 2") as James "Rhodey" Rhodes and Jon Favreau ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2") as Happy Hogan. Set for release in the U.S. on May 3, 2013, Marvel's "Iron Man 3" marks the second feature to be fully owned, marketed and distributed by Disney, which acquired Marvel in 2009.

"Iron Man 3" continues the epic, big-screen adventures of the world's favorite billionaire inventor/Super Hero, Tony Stark aka "Iron Man." Marvel Studios' President Kevin Feige is producing the film. Executive producers on the project include Jon Favreau, Louis D'Esposito, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Charles Newirth, Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard and Dan Mintz.

The creative production team on the film includes two-time Oscar®-winning director of photography John Toll, ASC ("Braveheart," "Legends of the Fall"), production designer Bill Brzeski ("The Hangover," "Due Date"), editors Jeffrey Ford, A.C.E. ("Marvel's The Avengers," "Captain America: The First Avenger") and Peter S. Elliot ("Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer"), and costume designer Louise Frogley ("Quantum of Solace," "Contagion").

Marvel Studios most recently produced the critically acclaimed "Marvel's The Avengers," which set the all-time, domestic 3-day weekend box office record at $207.4 million. The film, which is currently in release, continues to shatter box office records and is The Walt Disney Studios' highest-grossing global and domestic release of all time and marks the studios' fifth film to gross more than $1 billion worldwide.

In the summer of 2011, Marvel successfully launched two new franchises with "Thor," starring Chris Hemsworth, and "Captain America: The First Avenger," starring Chris Evans. Both films opened #1 at the box office and have grossed over $800 million worldwide combined. In 2010 "Iron Man 2," starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson and Mickey Rourke, took the #1 spot in its first weekend with a domestic box office gross of $128.1 million.

In the summer of 2008, Marvel produced the summer blockbuster movies "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk." "Iron Man," in which Robert Downey Jr. originally dons the Super Hero's powerful armor and stars alongside co-stars Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow, was released May 2, 2008, and was an immediate box office success. Garnering the number one position for two weeks in a row, the film brought in over $100 million in its opening weekend. On June 13, 2008, Marvel released "The Incredible Hulk," marking its second number one opener of that summer.

ABOUT MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT: Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world's most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of over 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media over seventy years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing and publishing. For more information visit SOURCE Marvel Entertainment, LLC


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