MBS operator open to selling mall when exclusivity expires next year

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands will likely be sold as a whole when a sale occurs. Potential buyers may include large shopping centre operators, institutional investors or specialised mall funds.
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands will likely be sold as a whole when a sale occurs. Potential buyers may include large shopping centre operators, institutional investors or specialised mall funds.ST FILE PHOTO

But Las Vegas Sands needs govt approval to sell or sub-divide luxury mall, says STB

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) could be put up for sale by owner Las Vegas Sands (LVS) after the expiry of a government-imposed moratorium next year if, among other things, it gets the green light from Singapore.

LVS chairman Sheldon Adelson, in the company's first-quarter earnings call last month, had mentioned that he is considering selling the integrated resort's (IR) 800,000 sq ft luxury mall after a 10-year duopoly expires next year.

MBS and Resorts World Sentosa were granted exclusive rights from 2007 to 2017, partly so that their operators - LVS and Genting Singapore - could get a head start in recouping billions of dollars in construction costs and investment.

"We have been approached. We have been talking to people," Mr Adelson said. "We always have thoughts of monetising anything except our core assets... We cannot monetise anything until 2017 in Singapore. Those are the rules under which we got our licence.

"The cap rates are attractive, and we may or may not sell a portion," he added. Capitalisation rates are rates that help in evaluating a property investment.

LVS president and chief operating officer Robert Goldstein said in the call: "We recognise interest rates are at a historical favourable position for us, and, for the first time, Mr Adelson has taken at least some, fielded some phone calls from people who want to buy a part of that. So it's under consideration."

While the Marina Bay Sands mall cannot be sold during the exclusivity period, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) told The Straits Times: "Approval of the Singapore Government must be sought if (LVS) was to consider any sale or sub-division of the IR after that period."

Ms Carrie Kwik, STB's executive director of arts, entertainment and integrated resorts, said: "The concept of the integrated resort is that of a... holistic product comprising key elements, including attractions, retail, dining, entertainment, accommodation and Mice facilities, with the objective of broadening Singapore's tourism offerings.

"Hence, MBS is not allowed to sell, transfer or dispose of its estate interest in MBS within the exclusivity period of 10 years."

Mr Grant Govertsen, managing partner of Union Gaming Research Macau, said he believes the mall will likely be sold as a whole rather than piecemeal.

On its value, he said: "Assuming around US$150 million (S$204 million) in operating income, and at a 3 per cent or 4 per cent cap rate, as mentioned in the company's conference call, this could imply a valuation of approximately US$4 billion to US$5 billion."

Potential buyers may include large shopping centre operators, large institutional investors or specialised mall funds, said Ms Tang Wei Leng, managing director of Colliers Singapore.

"An investment of this size could also attract interest from overseas, particularly funds or retail Reits that have a global portfolio and are seeking a solid performing asset with strong sales and footfall.

"Since the mall's price tag will require serious money, we will not be surprised to see some interested parties partnering up," she added.

"Given the mall's high profile and visibility in Asia, there is enough interest to generate demand in the marketplace."

In the first quarter, MBS reported that mall revenue dipped 2 per cent to US$39 million, while hotel room revenue fell 0.8 per cent to US$88.9 million.

Convention, retail and other revenues fell 21.3 per cent to US$21 million, while food and beverage sales remained resilient, rising 1.8 per cent to US$46 million.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'MBS operator open to selling mall when exclusivity expires next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe