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Wed 10 Sep 2008 10:06 AM

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Tycoon eyes $1bn Atlantis expansion

Sol Kerzner says resort growth is on the cards but doubts are raised over ambitious Las Vegas proposals.

The man behind Dubai's Atlantis resort has revealed plans for a $1 billion expansion of the Palm island site.

Hotel tycoon Sol Kerzner, CEO of Bahamas-based Kerzner International, said on Wednesday that the expansion would incorporate the company's luxury brand The Cove.

The exclusive accommodation, which operates at Kerzner's Atlantis in the Bahamas, includes a penthouse suite which can cost $15,000 a night.

Kerzner also revealed that his company would hold back on progressing plans for a multi-billion dollar resort in Las Vegas.

Under an agreement last year, Kerzner, MGM and Dubai World investment unit Istithmar said they planned the resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

MGM, the world's second-largest casino operator, is contributing about 40 acres of land to the joint venture.

Construction had been set to begin in 2009, but Kerzner admitted he did not know what would happen.

"Right now we have put some equity, but as to what happens moving forward, who knows? Financing projects in Las Vegas is very difficult and I'm not sure when we can go to ground," Kerzner said.

"We are in the planning stage and expect to complete the conceptual plan by the end of the year," he said, adding that Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel was working on it.

The Dubai Atlantis resort is scheduled to open on September 24 despite last week's blaze that caused severe smoke damage to the hotel's lobby area. The cause of the fire has still not been announced.

Kerzner said his group was looking at the Gulf market to help offset difficulties in the US, beginning with the 1,539-room Atlantis, which should have a "huge" impact on earnings.

He added: "We will probably do more things in the Middle East and are considering the Far East, but at the same time with the economic environment you have to be careful ... but we are in discussions."

Speaking ahead of this month's launch of the $1.5 billion Atlantis resort in Dubai, he said earnings to the end of July were slightly up on last year, but a "difficult" start to the hurricane season was threatening its Caribbean assets. (Reuters)

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