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As Playboy Opens Macao Club, It Sees Asia Licensing Revenue Possibly Doubling

from – Playboy Enterprises Inc., seeking to revive its nightclubs with bunny-suited waitresses, opens a club in Macau today as it forecasts Asia licensing revenue will double this year on increased spending in China.

“Asia is the most important market” and sales in the continent may reach almost $20 million in 2010, Chief Executive Officer Scott Flanders [pictured] said in an interview in Hong Kong yesterday.

The Chicago-based company may double the share of sales it receives from China, its fastest-growing market, to 20 percent of total licensing revenue within three years, he said.

The publisher of Playboy magazine will open a 12,000 square-foot Playboy club today on the top floor of the Sands Macao, a casino operated by Sands China Ltd., a unit of billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s company. Casino sales in Macau, the only place in China where they’re legal, have surged 59 percent to $19 billion in the first 10 months of this year as the global economic recovery boosted spending.

The club in Macau will be its second worldwide and will feature gambling facilities, and sell merchandise including clothes, accessories and jewelry, Flanders said.

Playboy, whose stock has more than tripled in value in the past two years, is reviving its nightclub business. It opened one in Las Vegas in 2007, its first since the closure of a location in Manila in 1991.

The company’s flagship Chicago club was shuttered in 1986 after being attacked as demeaning to women.

Shanghai’s government in 2004 rejected an application to open a seven-story Playboy club in the city. Playboy magazine and similar publications are still banned in mainland China.

About 300 licensed single-brand Playboy stores operate in China, selling men’s clothing and other merchandise such as leather goods, and women’s items are sold through department stores and elsewhere.

Playboy also plans to open a 30,000 square-foot mansion in Macau’s Cotai Strip in 2012. While there are no immediate plans for a third club in Asia, Flanders said he “hopes to have one in Singapore,” where Sands and Genting Bhd. opened two casinos this year.

The company will incorporate “local flavor” at its Macau clubs by including Chinese wines and holding events for Chinese festivals, Flanders said. “It’s not an importation of American tastes, because that will be unsuccessful,” he said.

The Lunar New Year holidays next February will welcome the Year of the Rabbit, which will be a “great opportunity” to mark Playboy’s arrival in Macau, Flanders said. The Playboy logo uses a rabbit’s head.

The company said in August that its board formed a special committee to evaluate founder Hugh M. Hefner’s offer of $123 million to acquire all the shares he doesn’t already own.

“The board is evaluating the offer right now,” Flanders said. “I don’t know how long it will take, but some time next year, if the board accepts the proposal.”


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