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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Las Vegas Sands narrows fourth-quarter loss

18 February 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Las Vegas Sands Corp., thanks to booming results from its Macau casinos, said Wednesday that the company narrowed its fourth-quarter net loss from a year ago.

The company's earnings in the three-month period ended Dec. 31 were hurt by what it termed "a disappointing quarter" at its Venetian and Palazzo hotel-casinos on the Strip.

Las Vegas Sands said its net loss in the quarter was $113.9 million, or 17 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $136.5.6 million, or 27 cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts polled by FactSet Research expected the company to earn 2 cents a share in the quarter.

Net revenue rose 17.4 percent to $1.28 billion from $1.09 billion.

In Macau during the quarter, net revenue jumped 15.3 percent to $284.9 million at the Sands Macau, 20.9 percent to $570 million at The Venetian Macau, and 131.8 percent to $97.8 million at the smaller Four Seasons Macau.

At The Venetian and Palazzo on the Strip, however, net revenues were $263.7 million, a 19.4 percent decline from $327.1 million in the year-earlier fourth quarter.

"While our current quarter's results in Las Vegas reflect lower room and food and beverage revenues, principally because of less group business in Las Vegas, our gaming volumes have stabilized," Las Vegas Sands Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson said.

He said cost-saving programs implemented in the past year improved operating margins and cash flows, which was $306.2 million, a 25.5 percent increase from $244 million a year ago.

"We believe 2010 will reflect a recovery in the group business in Las Vegas, as recent booking trends reflect increases compared to 2009," Adelson said.

Based on the Macau results, Adelson said the company was making the correct move by restarting construction of 13.3 million square foot hotel-casino complex on the Cotai Strip later this year. The project was halted in November 2008 when the company ran into financial issues.

The site, across from The Venetian Macau, is expected to open in June 2011 with 4,100 hotel rooms at the Shangri-La, Traders, Sheraton, and St. Regis brand. A 2,300-room Sheraton Towers will open six months later.

JP Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff said the company's Macau operations have shown solid volume and margin traction.

"Las Vegas Sands has been effective with both its mass market and slot programs in Macau, particularly at The Venetian," Greff told investors. "We believe the improving mix, when coupled with the cost-containment efforts and a stronger year-over-year convention calendar in 2010, will continue to drive strong results at the property."

Adelson said Las Vegas Sands will announce an opening date for the $5.4 billion Marina Bay Sands in Singapore next week. The large resort is expected to open in April or May, and follows last weekend's opening of Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore's first hotel-casino. The $4.7 billion property was built by a unit of Malaysia's Genting Group.

During a conference call with investors, Las Vegas Sands executives were not asked about a $70 per person entry fee into the Resorts World casino that has been mandated by the Singapore government to warn against the dangers of gambling addiction. The same entry fee is expected to be placed on the Marina Bay Sands.

Greff said Las Vegas Sands management is bullish with respect to first quarter Macau trends and the 2010 outlook for Macau.

Las Vegas Sands, which reported earnings after trading closed on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at $17.46 a share, down 10 cents, or 0.57 percent. In after-hours trading, Las Vegas Sands shares fell $1, or 5.73 percent, to reach $16.50 at 5 p.m. PST.