CEO Slugfest: You don’t see this every day, says Cramer
Tough guys appear to be slugging it out as they muscle their way around a gambling empire. And no this isn't the latest episode of Boardwalk Empire.
"This happening in real life," mused Cramer. "And it's a battle royale."
That is, CEOs in the casino industry are taking swings at one another.
Whenever there's fierce competition, there's always acrimony but that tension seemed to explode in late July when Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands took a big swing at rivals for driving down hotel rates, blaming them for curtailing revenues.
He said that Caesars and MGM, which own over 20 properties on the famed Vegas Strip (or just off the Strip), aggressively lowered room prices and then suggested the strategy was due to a need to service excessive debt.
"I don't necessarily blame them," Adelson said. "I suppose if I were in that position, I might do the same thing."
Thereafter, Jim Murren, the chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts, took exception to Adelson's comments. He defended the company's sales strategy and suggested his company was far more relevant than Adelson's.
"We and Caesars are the largest players. We provide the most jobs, the most tax revenues and the most community support," he said.
Murren also suggested his company had its finger on the pulse of Vegas while Adelson was a little out of touch. "We know Las Vegas better than he does," Murren added.
Although these quips make for interesting melodrama, Cramer thinks they can distract investors from what really matters – price action.
"MGM and Caesars are on a roll, their stocks are up 48% and 156% for the year, respectively. At the same time, Las Vegas Sands is up just 23%," Cramer said.
Could the quips stem from a case of sour grapes? Cramer thinks it's possible, however if you're looking to put money to work in the space, Cramer says step back. "Let me point out how different the companies really are."
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"Both MGM and Caesars are very Vegas focused, it's their bread and butter," Cramer said. "The reason MGM and Caesars have been leaving LVS in the dust this year is because Las Vegas is mounting a major comeback," he explained.
However, Cramer thinks it would be a mistake to lump MGM and Caesars into the same category – because of the way in which the companies are addressing their debt.
"MGM has been making real progress paying down their debt, and the company should be able to break even this year and actually turn a profit in 2014. By contrast, ". Even with the terrific recovery in the Las Vegas market, Caesar's has so much debt that it's hard to imagine them turning a profit."
Therefore, if you want to play the resurgence of Vegas, Cramer said MGM was the way to do it.
By contrast, Cramer added that Las Vegas Sands is much more about China. "The company gets about half of its business from Macau in China, and another 39% from Singapore."
And the price action, outlined above, reflects the Street's belief that the Chinese economy has been stuck in a rut.
"However, if you if you believe, like I do, that China is turning, then it's easy to imagine the Macau focused Las Vegas Sands roaring higher," Cramer said.
What's the bottom line?
Enjoy the sparring between CEOs for what it is – entertainment. But just because the insides of their casinos may look similar, make no mistake, the stocks of these companies couldn't be more different.
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