Why Korean hotel owner continues to invest in Clark

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Dec 17 2014 05:06 PM | Updated as of Dec 18 2014 11:47 PM

MANILA - Widus Hotel and Casino will be expanding its facilities inside Clark Freeport Zone in the next four to five years, its president and chief executive Daesik Han said on Wednesday.

Han, a Korean national, said he is planning to invest an additional $100 million for a third hotel and casino tower project in Clark, which he described as a "smaller scale integrated resort."

"I plan to invest an additional $100 million for hotel and other facilities like restaurants, and bigger casino," he said in a press briefing.

Han opened the first hotel tower in 2008 under the name Hotel Vida.

In 2010, the name was changed to Widus Hotel and Casino. A second tower was opened two years later to bring the total room count to 233.

"The reason why I named my company Widus is from [the phrase] 'with us.' We use it in our promo, like 'Come and stay with us,'" Han explained.

The casino floor was then expanded in November this year, doubling its casino tables to 52 and adding 100 slot machines.

Han said he has already invested an estimated $70 million for the development, which currently sits on a 4.7-hectare property.

By January 2015, Han said he will sign a contract to lease an additional 3 hectares of land from Clark Development Corp. to accomodate the third tower. He expects construction to begin in May 2015.

The new facility will have an additional 250-300 rooms, and a bigger casino and convention center, and is expected to create an additional 500 jobs.

Currently, Widus Hotel and Casino employs around 600 workers.

Why Clark?

Han shared that he first visited Clark in August 2005, when he was still running a construction company with his best friend in Korea.

During his short stay, Han said he stayed in a small hotel outside the Clark Freeport Zone.

"I was very disappointed with the facility," he said.

Seeing the potential of the location, Han began studying business opportunities in December 2005.

He said the first thing that he considered is Clark's accessibility.

There are daily direct flights from Korea to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, which Han believes will undergo expansion in the future.

"Manila airport is fully saturated, everyone knows this. There is no room for expansion. In the end, where do you go?" he said.

Han also said he chose to set up his business in Clark because of the English-speaking community. Han is not operating any other business outside the Philippines.

He said Clark is the ideal location for him to open a casino because since he does not have a local partner, he can only operate in a freeport zone.

Han also benefited from incentives such as no value-added tax, no duties and tariffs, and lower income tax.

He added that while security is one of the concerns of Chinese casino operators setting up shop in Entertainment City, this is not the case in Clark.

"Clark airport is very safe. Outside I cannot say, but inside Clark, it is very safe. That's why when all these developments materialize there, everybody should say that Clark is much safer. I haven't heard of any really serious crime inside Clark," he said.

Han said his company is expecting net profit growth of 70-80 percent this year compared to 2013. He said around 80 percent of the profits come from gaming.

From December to February next year, Han said around 70 to 120 rooms are expected to be occupied by Koreans, 50 percent of whom are likely to play in the casino.

Most of the clients in the Widus casino are "foreign premium players," which Han described as the not-so-serious casino players, but may spend between P300,000 to P1 million during their stay.

Han said that he is considering an initial public offering by the end of 2015 or early 2016 to fund further expansion.