1Q12 for Las Vegas Sands/Sands China: record quarters again

the results

After the New York close last Wednesday, LVS reported results for 1Q12.  Revenues came in at $2.77 billion, up 30.8% year on year.  Adjusted Earnings Before Interest Taxes and Depreciation/Amortization (EBITDA) was $1.07 billion, up 42% yoy.  Adjusted EPS were $.70.  That was a gain of 89.2% over results in the year-ago quarter.  The figure also came in $.01/share above the highest Wall Street estimate, and $.07/share ahead of the consensus.

the details

EBITDA breaks out into:

$456.4 million in Macau, up 20.6% yoy

$472.5 million in Singapore, up 66.1% yoy

$115.8 million in Las Vegas, up 77.9% yoy

$27.5 million in Bethlehem, Pa., up 24.4% yoy.

three unusual items (all in Macau)

The ” adjusted” figures exclude two of the items:

–$51.5 million in pre-opening expenses for the Sands Cotai Central which opened earlier this month, and

–a $42.9 million writeoff of costs linked to the closing of the Zaia show at the Venetian Macau.

Results did, however, include $13 million of costs associated with retailing–management declined to provide any detail.

market reaction

1928 and LVS have dropped about 5% each on the results announcement, despite the obvious strength in the numbers.  I don’t see why.

True, there are some nits to pick, namely:

–LVS is currently keeping 3¢ of every dollar high rollers are betting in Singapore and in Macau.  History says that should be more like 2.85¢, or 5% less.  at some point the company will have a sub-par quarter or two to make up for the current largesse.  But that’s the nature of the casino business.

–There is the mystery $13 million loss in Macau.  But that’s more like a rounding error than a serious dent in operating income.

–EBITDA margins fell qoq in Macau in March.

On the other hand,

–management wasn’t much more incoherent than usual on the conference call that accompanied the announcement

–US operations are much healthier than they were a year ago

–1928 appears to be gaining market share in Macau, even before the new casino opening. Revenues were up 9% qoq, in a basically flat market.

–the mysterious $13 million shortfall in Macau seems to explain all the EBITDA margin deterioration in the SAR vs. 4Q11.  If management is correct in its diagnosis, this is a non-recurring item.  In addition,

LVS is deleveraging   …fast

At December 31, 2010, LVS had $10.1 billion in debt on its balance sheet plus $710.7 million in preferred stock.  Against that, the company had $3.04 billion in unrestricted cash.

As of March 31st, 2012, LVS has accumulated an extra $1 billion in cash.  All the preferred stock has been redeemed and debt is $200 million lower.

That’s about a $2 billion shrinkage in net borrowings.  At the current level of $1 billion in cash generation from operations per quarter, LVS could be completely debt free by June 2013.  (LVS points out that it could be completely debt free today, if it wanted to be, by selling a chunk of its retail space in Macau.)

next stop Spain?

LVS confirmed that it is deep in negotiations with Madrid and Barcelona to develop a huge casino/resort complex in Spain over a decade.  No details as yet.  I wrote about the possible Spanish expansion a little over a year ago.

investment arithmetic

I think that LVS will earn about $3 a share this year.  So at Friday’s closing price, LVS is trading at 18.6x this year’s earnings and yielding 1.7%.

That’s not the right way to value the company, however, in my opinion.  I prefer sum-of-the-parts.

Based on its current market cap in Hong Kong, LVS’s share of 1928 is worth roughly $22.5 billion.  If we think the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore should trade at 80% of 1928’s EBITDA multiple, then it’s worth about $25 billion ($31 billion if MBS were to trade at parity with 1928).

LVS’s market cap (even though it’s up over 30% ytd) is $41 billion.  Therefore, LVS’s US operations are still trading at a value of negative $6.5 billion.

What should the value of Las Vegas + Bethlehem be?

There are, of course, two parts to US profits for LVS–casino operations and management fees collected from Asia.  For simplicity’s sake, lump them together.  Say they’ll generate $600 million in cash from operations this year.  Let’s cut that down to $400 million after taxes.  Now, let’s assume this business never recovers and should be evaluated as if it were a junk bond.  If we assume a that the cash represents a yield of 7.5%, then the principal value of the “bond” should be $5.3 billion.  Subtract $2 billion in debt (that may be excessive, but…) and we’re left with $3.3 billion.

Fair value for LVS, then, should be $3.3 billion + $22.5 billion + $25 billion  =  $50.8 billion, or 24% higher than where the stock is currently trading.

WYNN may be the highest quality casino company, but this analysis means for me that LVS is the most attractive casino stock (remember, I own both LVS and WYNN–more WYNN than LVS, though).

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