Chinese-based interests hold the vast majority of shares in the parent company behind a consortium in exclusive government negotiations to build a $3 billion casino, apartment and hotel mega-project on the Gold Coast.
Shareholder records for the Sydney-based, ASX-listed, ASF Group show of all companies listed among its top 20 shareholders none are Australian, and every group whose identity can be determined is Chinese.
The Australian yesterday revealed ASF Group — which wholly owns ASF Consortium, which is seeking to develop the resort on Southport Spit — has lost $92 million of the $102m it has raised from investors, and its auditor warned of “material uncertainty” about its ability to stay afloat. Its shares closed up 1c at 20c yesterday.
ASF Group has said ASF Consortium will develop the project, but refuses to say who will fund it.
It has said its “consortium partners” include Chinese government-owned construction group China State Construction Engineering Corporation, a “tier-one casino operator” and “at least one other cornerstone entity”.
It had been reported casino operator Crown considered managing the casino at the development — which is planned to be built between Sea World and the Palazzo Versace hotel — but it is understood Crown has since walked away from discussions.
There could be a backlash if it emerges the anti-gambling Chinese government is the key proponent of the project via CSCEC or other investors, given China is detaining without charge three Australian Crown employees on “suspicion of gambling”.
Both ASF Group and Queensland State Development Minister Anthony Lynham declined to comment when asked whether ASF Group was a front and the project was in fact to be developed by the Chinese government. ASF Group appears to have no experience in property development — other than managing a recent small project at the Gold Coast’s Hope Island — and the group declined to comment yesterday when asked for details of any other projects it had undertaken.
Among the top 20 shareholders of ASF Group, 12 were companies, and the eight whose backgrounds could be identified were based in Hong Kong or mainland China.
ASF Group’s top shareholders included Standard Moral International Limited, Forever Grand Group and Ruby Bridge Group.
In 2013, the Liberal National Party Newman government called for tenders to build a casino and cruise-ship terminal on the undeveloped Wave Break Island, to the north of the current proposed site.
In 2015, the new ALP government fulfilled a pre-election promise, saying no development would go ahead on Wave Break Island.
But in August 2015, Mr Lynham announced the project would proceed, minus the terminal, at the current proposed site, with ASF Consortium the developer. He said the next step was to request a detailed proposal, with ASF Consortium to respond early last year.
However, the government is yet to request a detailed proposal.
Opposition state development spokeswoman Deb Frecklington said the project was “hopelessly stalled under Labor”.