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HONG KONG-Shares in Melco International soared 10% after reports that it plans to raise $1 billion by floating its Macao casino venture on the Nasdaq Index.

Macao is a joint venture owned by Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) and Hong Kong businessman Lawrence Ho’s Melco International Development. The markets took seriously news in a published report that the joint owners planned to seek a US listing despite the report citing unnamed sources. The report added that PBL is working up plans to float a 20% stake on the Nasdaq index, a deal which would value the joint venture at more than £5 billion.Neither company would comment nor would their advisers Credit Suisse, UBS and Citigroup.

But analysts believe Melco and PBL want to take advantage of growing American investor interest in China’s restricted gaming sector and that a $5-billion valuation for the gaming joint venture is “plausible”. One added that funds raised with an IPO could be used to expand across Asia as well as in Macao, which is this year expected to overtake Las Vegas as the world’s largest gaming market. Revenue from gambling in Macao is expected to exceed $6 billion this year. It is understood the flotation depends on the two companies getting clearance from regulators to hold a full Macao casino license, which was acquired from Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino entrepreneur, in a $900-million deal earlier this year.

Last week, the partners spent HK$1.5 billion ($193 million) acquiring land to build their third casino in Macao, the only place in China where gambling is legal.

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