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Howard Stutz
 

The Strip: Wynn May Consider Dividend

3 May 2005

For the first time since becoming a publicly traded company, the shareholders of Wynn Resorts Ltd. were able to hold their annual meeting in a building that was producing revenue toward their investment.

Four days after the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas opened, shareholders Monday filled a large ballroom in the Strip property's convention area to listen as company Chairman Steve Wynn recounted from where they had come.

"It's nice to finally be in our home court," Wynn Resorts President Ron Kramer at the start of the hour-long meeting.

Wynn spoke to shareholders at the meeting for about 35 minutes before taking about a half-dozen questions. Wynn, the company's directors, and shareholders took about 10 minutes to conduct corporate business. Wynn spent about 10 minutes introducing directors, the Wynn Las Vegas management and officials from the company's Macau project.

"It's good to see many faces from the past," Wynn said, referring to shareholders who had previously held stock in Mirage Resorts and its predecessor, Golden Nugget Corp.

He told shareholders the company might consider breaking from previous practices and offering dividends to stockholders, a practice that's become commonplace in recent years for many publicly traded casino operators.

As chairman of Mirage Resorts and Golden Nugget, Wynn eschewed dividends, arguing that as a growth company, money was better spent on construction and development projects. Such projects, he argued then, allowed investors to take their rewards on the growth of the company's stock price.

In his time away from Wall Street, after selling Mirage Resorts to MGM in 2000, Wynn said securities provisions had changed, making it worthwhile to offer stockholders a quarterly dividend.

"It's something that will be up to our board of directors to consider," Wynn said at the end of a long response to a shareholder's question on the topic.

Wynn talked at length about the company's future development plans in Las Veg as, the planned opening next year of the company's casino and resort in the Chinese gaming enclave of Macau, and how Wynn Las Vegas was operating after less than a week.

"It's about 97 to 98 percent finished," Wynn said. "There are still a few things to work out."

For the vast majority of Wynn Resorts shareholders, the meeting marked their initial visit to Wynn Las Vegas, which held a private charity gala Wednesday evening before opening to the public just after midnight Wednesday.

Wynn said the new hotel's 2,716 rooms were filled all weekend and guests included many of the casino's targeted high-end clientele from Asia.

"We don't like to talk about numbers, but this property outperformed anything we experienced at any of our other hotels we opened in past," said Wynn, who previously built and opened The Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio.

"We're confident that Wynn Las Vegas will meet the expectations of our discriminating friends," he said.

Last year's annual meeting was held in the final remaining structure of Desert Inn, which was imploded in November to make room for Wynn's second Strip resort, the $1.4 billion Encore. Construction on Encore is expected to begin by August and open in 2007.

More than 800 seats were set up for shareholders in the Latour Ballroom and about three-quarters were filled mostly by retirees. Many said they owned just a few hundred shares of Wynn Resorts. Wynn and his primary investor, Japanese businessman Kazuo Okada, chairman of Aruze Corp. each own more than 24 million shares, or 50 percent of the stock.

Wynn Resorts had its initial public offering in October 2002, about a month before the property to be known as Wynn Las Vegas broke ground. After opening at $13 a share, the stock climbed sharply. The stock rose to $28.01 by the end of 2003 and to $66.92 by the end of 2004.

However, since reaching a 52-week high of $76.45 on March 16, the price of Wynn Resorts has fallen almost 34 percent. The stock closed Monday's trading session at $50.62, down $2.32, or 4.38 percent from Friday. More than 3.6 million shares were traded Monday, double the normal daily volume.

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Marc Falcone, who attended the shareholders meeting, said in a recent note to investors that the price in Wynn Resorts would fluctuate as the resort begins to drive traffic.

"Our belief is that the next 45 to 90 days will be filled with fine-tuning, while Wall Street observers will also sound their opinions in earnest," Falcone said. "While shares may remain volatile over the near term, investors may be hard-pressed to find a company with such rapid growth over the next several years."

Ed Jaronik, a Wynn Resorts shareholder from Chicago who owns about 100 shares, said he's happy with his investment.

"I like what (Wynn) has done and I know we've got a great future," he said.

The Strip: Wynn May Consider Dividend is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.