Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sands Puts Eggs In S'pore Basket, Will Open On Time

Source : The Business Times, January 9, 2009

LVS says it has sufficient cash and will scrimp and save on costs elsewhere

Las Vegas Sands (LVS) needs US$4 billion to complete the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and says reassuringly that it currently has US$6.2 billion in borrowings and liquidity.

Speaking at an investor conference in the US, LVS president and COO William Weidner said that its 'revised business plan', which includes the monetisation of non-core assets, has put the company in a cash position (borrowings and liquidity) of US$6.2 billion.

'The total need that we have is about US$4 billion to get us to the opening of Singapore (Marina Bay Sands). So there is cash available to open Singapore (Marina Bay Sands) in the first quarter of 2010,' Mr Weidner said.

While LVS has 'moth-balled' development of sites five and six at the Cotai Strip in Macau, it is also developing other projects concurrently in the US, notably the Sands Bethlehem.

However, part of LVS' revised business plan includes massive cost cutting at its Las Vegas operations. 'If we take a look at our plan and the risk to that plan, the risk is the underperformance in Las Vegas. We are mitigating that by a tremendous amount of cost cutting,' Mr Weidner said.

He revealed that LVS expects to cut US$100 million in cost in 2009 by cutting expenses, labour, head count and benefits. 'Everywhere that doesn't effect the customer experience, we are cutting, cutting, cutting,' he said.

Indeed, LVS will be focusing on opening MBS on time. 'Our focus is on the current operating environment and stickhandling through 2009 to the opening of Singapore (MBS),' he said.

And for good reason too.

By cornering a good chunk of the 4- and 5-star hotel market around Marina Bay, Mr Weidner projected that with its 2,600 rooms, and an average daily rate of US$269 per room by 2011, LVS hopes to rake in an ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) of US$161 million. He also forecasted a rental revenue from its retail component at US$179 million.

More important is that assuming a gross revenue of US$2 billion for MBS, which is about the same as its Macau operations currently, Mr Weidner said that earnings generated from the US$2 billion revenue in Singapore would amount to US$940 million because of the favourable tax regime compared to only US$504 million in Macau.

Mr Weidner's bullish comments come after a particularly tough quarter fraught with speculation that LVS could file for bankruptcy. In November, it had made a regulatory filing that said it was unlikely to meet the maximum leverage ratio covenant, triggering defaults on loans needed to complete projects.

Since then, LVS has announced that it has raised US$2.1 billion of capital.

Addressing the issue of debt, Mr Weidner said: 'The debt that we have is extraordinarily valuable. No one can generate about US$9.8 billion of debt at a blended rate of about 5 per cent in this environment.'

He said that the first maturity of this debt is in May 2011 of about US$800 million followed by May 2012 of about US$776 million.

Confirming the opening of Marina Bay Sands, a spokesman for MBS said it is still targeted to open by the end of 2009.

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