Marina Bay Sands’ $4.4b expansion likely to be delayed again

An artist's impression of Marina Bay Sands' fourth tower. The planned expansion for MBS was announced in 2019. PHOTO: LAS VEGAS SANDS CORP

SINGAPORE - The planned extension of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is expected to be delayed yet again, with no confirmation on when construction will commence, the integrated resort’s US owner and operator said in its latest annual report.

Las Vegas Sands (LVS) was last reported by The Straits Times in February 2022 as saying that the US$3.3 billion (S$4.4 billion) expansion of MBS was on track for completion by 2026. The previous deadline before this was 2025.

A main reason cited for the delay back then was disruptions to the construction industry as a result of the pandemic.

LVS is obligated to commence work on the expansion by April 2023 under the Second Development Agreement with the Singapore Government.

However, the group said in its report released on Feb 3 that it does not expect to be able to begin construction by the given timeline.

In the report, the group said it was in discussion with the Singapore Government on an extension of the deadline for the “commencement and completion” of the MBS expansion.

LVS also said it was in the process of reviewing the budget and timing of the MBS expansion based on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and other factors, and that the total project cost will be finalised when it begins construction.

The group will be in breach of the agreement if it is unable to obtain an extension.

A spokesman for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said it will continue to monitor progress of the developments.

The agreement, which MBS entered into with STB in April 2019, contains provisions related to the construction of the MBS expansion. It also includes certain benefits and entitlements for MBS upon achieving certain milestones.

Some examples of the benefits and entitlements include MBS being allowed to have an additional 1,000 gaming machines on top of its existing 2,500, and the option to purchase additional casino gaming area at a price to be determined by a relevant Singapore government authority upon written request.

While the report did not specify what milestones MBS had to achieve to enjoy the entitlements, it did state that in October 2019, MBS was allowed to make 500 of the additional 1,000 gaming machines available.

The planned expansion for MBS, which was announced in 2019, includes a new 1,000-room luxury hotel tower and a 15,000-seat entertainment arena.

The delay will not materially impact Singapore’s attractiveness as a business and upmarket destination, according to Mr Benjamin Cassim, a senior lecturer for Temasek Polytechnic’s hospitality and tourism management diploma course.

“There would be some initial impact to LVS’ image, and perhaps some impact on its share prices. However, this would be marginal,” he said. “Given the current global economic climate, being prudent and cautious is not necessarily viewed as a weakness.”

Earlier in 2023, MBS reported a record performance in the last quarter of 2022 for its mass gaming and retail revenue.

Its net revenue almost doubled to US$682 million for the fourth quarter of 2022, from the US$368 million it recorded for the last quarter of 2021.

The delay could provide MBS with an opportunity to include greater levels of sustainability in its planned extension and leverage new technology to future-proof hotel suites and meeting spaces, added Mr Cassim.

Separately, MBS is currently renovating its two existing hotel towers to include fresh suite options for $1 billion, with completion set for 2023.

When contacted for comment, a spokesman for MBS said it had no further information to share.

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