LVS’s 3Q11: very strong, across the board

the report

After the close of New York trading on October 27th, LVS reported 3Q11 results.  Revenue was a record $2.41 billion, up 26% year on year.  Property EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation and amortization) was up 43.2% to $924.1 million.  EPS were $.55, a 61.8% boost over earnings in 3Q10.  The Wall Street consensus eps estimate was $.52.

LVS shares are up by about 4% in aftermarket trading as I’m writing this.

the details

In what follows, it’s important to remember that what a casino company reports as gambling revenue is not the total amount of money bet, but rather the portion of the money bet that it retains or “wins.”  Over a long period of time, the casino’s winning percentage is relatively steady.  In any given quarter, however, it can move away substantially from the long-run average.  In analyzing quarterly results, we should note any short-term deviations and at least mentally adjust for them.

Singapore

Year on year comparisons for the Marina Bay Sands aren’t that helpful, because the casino/resort complex is so new. I’m using quarter on quarter comparisons, instead.

Gambling activity continues to grow rapidly.  EBITDA, which was $413.9 million for 3Q11 vs. $405.4 million in 2Q11 doesn’t show this clearly, though.  That’s because the high roller winning percentage at Marina Bay was 2.99% in 2Q11 and 2.69% in 3Q11 (LVS thinks the normal range for quarterly win in the VIP segment, by far the casino’s largest, should be 2.8%-3.0%).  The q-on-q decline in winning percentage clipped about $35 million from 3Q EBITDA.  The real quarter on quarter growth rate is 10%+, not the 2%+ the accounts show.

VIPs bet an eye-popping $16.7 billion at Marina Bay during 3Q11.  This compares with $12.2 billion in 2Q11 and $10.2 billion in 3Q10–both breathtaking numbers in their own right.

Macau

Same story here.  EBITDA in 3Q11 was $388.3 million, down $3.3 million compared with 2Q11–at a time when market growth, quarter on quarter, was about 10%.  Adjusting Sands China’s winning percentage up to 2Q11 level adds $40 million to the EBITDA line.  This suggests that Sands China held its own in a growing market, despite not adding any casino space this year.

Sands China’s newest, 13.7 million square foot casino in Cotai is slated to open in five months.

US
I’m going to ignore Bethlehem, PA because it’s so small (EBITDA of $25.2 million in the quarter).

EBITDA in Las Vegas was $94.3 million for the seasonally weak 3Q, up slightly from $92.9 million in 2Q11 but up sharply from $58.3 million in 3Q10.   About $10 million of the increase on a year over year basis is due to higher royalty income from Macau and Singapore.  Most of the rest is a halving in the level of giveaways from the $40 million or so LVS needed last year to get customers to come to its Las Vegas properties.

 

In short, LVS is holding its own in the US and is making money hand over fist in Macau and Singapore.

valuation remains compelling, in my view

(Remember, I own LVS, WYNN and 1128 (if it weren’t for a software glitch Fidelity can’t find/fix, I’d own 1928, too)).

Look first at WYNN, which I consider to have the strongest gambling company management.  Its interest in 1128 is worth about $11.5 billion at today’s market price.  Therefore, the market is valuing the US interests of WYNN at about $5.5 billion.

Next, MGM, the weakest of the big firms.  Its interest in MGM China is worth $3 billion, implying its other interests, including its entanglement with Pansy Ho, are worth $2.7 billion.

What about LVS?  The market in Hong Kong values its interest in 1928 at $17 billion.  Arguably, Marina Bay should be valued at a premium to Sands China.  But capitalizing its earnings on the same basis as 1928 yields a value for the 100%-owned Singapore subsidiary of $25 billion.  This would mean the market values the rest of LVS–Las Vegas and Pennsylvania–at minus $9 billion.  LVS shares would have to be almost 30% higher just to get the needle out of the minus column.

is there a reason for the apparent undervaluation?

A friend who’s a regular reader of PSI asked about ongoing litigation involving LVS, based on a Wall Street Journal article a week or so ago.  I’ll write about this on Sunday.

The litigation may well be a serious issue.  I don’t know.  On the other hand, the stock price already seems to me to be discounting a very unfavorable outcome.

Also, arguably LVS’s leading position in two major Asian markets and its tourist/convention emphasis make it attractive to other countries interested in creating a tourism/gaming industry.  Both WYNN and LVS are seeing synergy effects in Las Vegas from their Asian exposure;  LVS is seeing this in Singapore.  One might therefore expect LVS to be trading at a premium to its competitors, not a steep discount.


why is Las Vegas Sands eyeing Spain?

the news on Spain…

I was very surprised when I read a newspaper article last week trumpeting LVS’s negotiations with the Spanish government to open a $13 billion-$20 billion casino resort project in that country.  After all, it wasn’t so long ago (late 2008) that LVS was:

–cutting back on expansion (the steel skeleton of the aborted Palazzo expansion still graces the Las Vegas Strip),

–cautioning that the company could be in violation of its debt covenants, and

–the Adelson family was injecting $1 billion of its own money into the company to help reduce its leverage.

…comes from Singapore

The report seems to have been based on a briefing by LVS of reporters in Singapore, although the company has issued no press release I can find, nor has it filed a statement of its plans, which may include casinos in Madrid and/or Barcelona, with the SEC.  LVS is apparently far enough along with that project to be meeting with contractors in Spain in a couple of weeks.

a rosy present

Of course, the situation for LVS is a lot better today than it was back then.  Las Vegas has turned cash flow positive (although it’s still losing money).  More important,  Macau generated ebitda (earnings before interest taxes depreciation and amortization) of $341 million in the fourth quarter.  And the recently opened Marina Bay Sands in Singapore produced ebitda of $306 million during the same period, even though the resort complex isn’t quite finished.  Business in both Asian regions is growing, with LVS thinking the Marina Bay might generate ebitda of $2 billion in 2011. (I’m pencilling in $1.5 billion for Macau.)

Spain makes some sense

In addition, the Spain idea may not be as far-fetched as it sounds at first.  How so?

Making the very crude (but probably still accurate enough) assumption that depreciation and amortization (an addition to cash flow) and interest expense (an outflow of money) cancel each other out, Macau + Singapore could together generate $3.5 billion in cash, before taxes, this year.  Presumably 2012 would be stronger, at the very least because the Marina Sands will have been completed. But business there is also continuing to grow so rapidly that LVS is worried about running out of hotel rooms.

We’ll have a much better sense of LVS’s financial obligations and its debt repayment schedule when the 2010 10-K comes out, but my numbers are at least directionally correct.  They illustrate three emerging characteristics of LVS:

–the company is generating a ton of cash

–most of that is outside the US

–LVS’s mountain of debt doesn’t look so bad anymore.

What does LVS do with its cash?

Well, we know what LVS doesn’t do.  It doesn’t repatriate any more of this money to the US than it has to, since the funds sent stateside become subject to federal income tax at up to a 35% rate.  Burning the money in the street instead would at least allow you to roast hot dogs.

To my mind, it also doesn’t keep a lot of spare cash in the bank in Singapore.  Why not?  Although Singapore’s economic development model is based on Japan, its legal and political systems grew their roots during Singapore’s time as a British colony.  For the British, no monopoly–like LVS and Genting have in the casino business in Singapore–lasts forever.  And the faster a monopolist makes money, the sooner the rules that are allowing windfall profits change.  No, I’m not worried that the decade or so LVS and Genting have as exclusive casino developers will be altered.  My question is about taxes.  I think having bank balances in the billions in Singapore just invites the government to raise the gaming levy.

Interestingly, apparently in response to a question from the audience in Singapore, LVS management also said it has no intention of taking the Marina Bay Sands public, citing the illiquidity of the Singapore and Hong Kong stock markets (arguably true in Singapore’s case, but not relevant, in my opinion).  I draw three conclusions from this answer:

1) LVS doesn’t need the money,

2) LVS would like to keep 100% of the Singapore cash flow potential, which could be mind-bogglingly high, for itself,

3) Marina Sands could easily be the vehicle LVS uses to establish and fund Spanish operations, since there are no potentially pesky minority shareholders to object.  Also, Sands China will likely have its hands full with further expansion in China.

it’s how they roll

Once you get past the headline shock and realize the LVS has the looming problem of how to reinvest its Asian cash flows, Spain doesn’t look so crazy after all.  An aggressive move, yes.  But that’s just how LVS rolls.