GARAPAN, Saipan — The ratings downgrade of Imperial Pacific International CNMI LLC made by two of the top three nationally recognized statistical rating organizations could further hurt the Hong Kong–based company’s reputation in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Best Sunshine International, Imperial Pacific’s subsidiary, owns and operates the temporary casino facility, Best Sunshine Live, at the T Galleria luxury shopping mall in Garapan.
On Jan. 11, Fitch Ratings downgraded the company’s credit rating from B(EXP) to CCC, citing “the company’s need to fund advances to customers and bear customers’ credit risk due to the lack of licensed junket operators in Saipan” and that the company “still has not secured sufficient long-term funding for the construction of its casino and resort.”
Moody’s downgraded Imperial Pacific from B3 to B2 on Jan. 12. A B2 rating is five levels below investment grade, a level that is of minimal grade to investors.
“The downgrade of Imperial Pacific’s [corporate family rating] reflects the increased uncertainty over the company’s ability to secure sufficient funding to complete its Grand Marina project, in view of the delay in the opening of the casino to March 2017,” said Kaven Tsang, a Moody’s vice president and senior credit officer, in a release.
“A successful issuance of the proposed bonds will satisfy only part of Imperial Pacific’s funding needs to complete the entire Grand Mariana project,” added Tsang, also Moody’s Lead Analyst for Imperial Pacific.
The delay in the opening of the casino will weaken the company’s cash flow generation and could also heighten the risk of cost overruns and a termination of the company’s gaming license, the release stated.
Ratings agencies give out downgrades in credit ratings as a signal that a particular issuer runs the risk of defaulting on its debt. A default is failure to pay the interest or principal on a due loan.
Imperial Pacific is in the process of completing its multi-million dollar Imperial Pacific Resort, a casino-hotel project that could make Saipan a gaming hub in the Western Pacific.
The ratings downgrade is among the long list of controversial issues involving the company since it started operations almost two years ago.
Financial media network Bloomberg published news stories questioning the unusually high revenues raked in by temporary facility, which one article stated drew the attention of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
Labor issues and other lawsuits sprouted against Imperial Pacific where recently Tropical Gardens Inc. filed a lawsuit allegedly claiming failure to receive payment for their landscaping and planting services. Last month, RNV Construction also sued Imperial Pacific for allegedly refusing to pay for construction work they did at BSI’s training facility.
But while the cases are ongoing, Imperial Pacific officials reiterated that they are committed to following NMI and U.S. labor laws and to operate within federal regulations.