Sands sells Las Vegas casinos in US$6.25b deal as it shifts focus to Macau, Singapore

Las Vegas Sands said the deal underscores its strategy of reinvesting in its Asian operations.
Las Vegas Sands said the deal underscores its strategy of reinvesting in its Asian operations.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Las Vegas Sands, founded by late casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, will sell its Vegas properties for US$6.25 billion (S$8.33 billion), exiting the United States gambling hot spot after three decades to focus on Asia, home to Singapore and the world's largest gambling hub, Macau.

Las Vegas Sands is also shortening its name to Sands as a result of leaving Las Vegas, CNN reported. In a press release, Mr Adelson's company said the change is "bittersweet" and will help it focus on faster growing markets, such as Asia.

The sale comes nearly two months after the death of Mr Adelson - widely credited with helping transform the Chinese territory of Macau from a den of hard core gambling parlours into a centre of luxury resorts and convention centres with revenue that now dwarfs Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Sands said the deal underscores its strategy of reinvesting in its Asian operations, with a focus on Macau and Singapore, where it owns the Marina Bay Sands casino resort. Macau and Singapore accounted for 48 per cent and 35 per cent of the company's total revenue in 2020, respectively, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

"The deal further strengthens the company's balance sheet to fund future growth in other domestic and global markets," Jefferies analysts said, viewing the sale as a net positive.

The properties being sold by the casino operator include the Venetian Resort Las Vegas and the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. A possible sale of the properties was widely reported late last year.

The gambling industry, which thrives on air travel and large groups of people in close proximity, has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

For 2020, Las Vegas Sands reported a loss of US$1.69 billion, the biggest in its history, as travel restrictions and lockdowns brought the gambling industry to a virtual standstill. The company's cash and short-term investments halved to US$2.12 billion at the end of 2020 from 2019.

However, widespread vaccinations are expected to aid in the travel recovery. Last month, rival MGM Resorts signalled a pickup in demand later this year as vaccines become more widely available.

Apollo Global Management Inc's affiliate-managed funds will buy the operating company of the Venetian for US$2.25 billion and VICI Properties will buy the land and real estate assets of the Venetian for US$4 billion.

Apollo's Alex van Hoek said the investment "underscores our conviction in a strong recovery for Las Vegas as vaccines usher in a reopening of leisure and travel in the United States and across the world".

Shares of Las Vegas Sands were up 1.2 per cent at US$65.74 in morning trading. The S&P 500 casinos and gaming index has gained 15.2 per cent this year, compared to a 3 per cent rise in the S&P 500.