Las Vegas Sands beats profit forecasts, still keen on Macau

Las Vegas Sands Corp, The Venetian.
Ricky Barnard | Wikipedia
Las Vegas Sands Corp, The Venetian.

Macau couldn't bring the Las Vegas Sands' spirits down. As the Asian gambling hotspot cools off amid a government corruption crackdown that scared off VIP gamblers and efforts to make the destination's casinos smoke-free, the casino empire's executives assured analysts Wednesday that tales of Macau's demise are unfounded.

"The new Macau is a little different than the old Macau, but still a wonderful Macau," said Robert Goldstein, Las Vegas Sands president and chief operating officer during the call.

Las Vegas Sands reported higher fourth-quarter net income of $721.3 million and annual profit of $2.84 billion.

The last four months had been unsettling, but the company's leaders presented a confident voice Wednesday.

"We believe very much in this market," Goldstein said, calling it the best gambling environment in the world. The company owns and operates The Venetian and The Palazzo resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, the Sands Bethlehem in Pennsylvania and several properties in Asia where it derives the bulk of its revenue.

Executives made much of the company's non-gambling offerings, but of its fourth-quarter and annual revenue, casino games accounted for 80 percent and 82 percent, respectively.

Sheldon Adelson, the founder, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, rattled off his casino empire's fourth-quarter and annual performance in Asia — highlighting EBIDTA that doubled at its Marina Bay Sands in Singapore — and twice asking rhetorically if he had heard someone say things were looking down in the Asian gambling market.

He pointed to the company's focus on offerings outside of the slot machines and casino floor, including a 15,000-seat arena for rotating performances, hotel room sales, shopping and the convention and meeting business.

On a per-share basis, the Las Vegas-based company earned 90 cents. Earnings adjusted for non-recurring costs came to 92 cents per share. The results topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 81 cents per share.

The casino operator posted revenue of $3.42 billion in the period, which fell short of Street forecasts. Analysts expected $3.55 billion, according to Zacks.

For the year, the company earned $2.84 billion, or $3.52 per share. Revenue rose to $14.58 billion.

In Las Vegas, The Venetian and The Palazzo resorts saw its casino, hotel room and restaurant revenue drop in the fourth quarter leading to EBIDTA — or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — of $78 million versus $88 million a year ago. Its Sands Bethlehem property in Pennsylvania, though, had a positive fourth quarter in every category.

Las Vegas Sands shares rose 3.8 percent to $58.12 in after-hours trading following the release of the report.

Asked by an analyst about his decision to assume the title of CEO at Sands China Ltd., too, versus strengthening the corporate mantle of executives, Adelson said to laughter, "Listen, I haven't done too bad."

This story was generated in part by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on LVS at http://www.zacks.com/ap/LVS