UPDATE 1-Macau casino operator SJM Q3 net profit climbs 41 pct

Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:25am EST

* SJM's Q3 net profit at HK$1.7 billion

* Adj EBITDA matches f'casts of HK$1.9 bln

* Drop in VIP high-rollers cuts into growth

* New Cotai casino unlikely to open before 2016

HONG KONG, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Macau's biggest casino operator, SJM Holdings Ltd, controlled by the family of gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, posted a 41 percent rise in third-quarter net profit, buoyed by a larger number of mass market Chinese gamblers.

The former Portuguese colony of Macau is the only place in China where casino gambling is legal. A drop in spending from VIP high-rollers has put pressure on SJM and its competitors, which are already seeing a sharp slowdown in growth in the world's casino capital.

SJM said on Thursday net profit in the third quarter was HK$1.7 billion ($219 million), c ompared with HK$1.17 billion a year earlier. Adjusted EBITDA was HK$1.9 billion in the same period, matching the forecast of five analysts polled by Reuters.

Controlled by executives including Stanley Ho's fourth wife Angela Leong, SJM is Macau's largest casino company by market share compared with the six licensed players that include Steve Wynn's Wynn Macau and Sheldon Adelson's Sands China

Valued at $13 billion, SJM last month said it had accepted a draft land concession contract with the government in Macau, where it plans to build a new casino. The casino company is not present on Cotai, a developing strip of land across from the main Macau peninsula.

The land concession contract will allow SJM to build in an area in Macau where its competitors such as Sands China dominate. SJM's project has received the greenlight from the government, but the company is unlikely to open its new casino before 2016 at the earliest.

Analysts view SJM as a defensive play armed with a strong balance sheet of HK$18 billion in net cash. There are 17 analysts with a "buy" or "strong buy" rating, seven analysts have a "hold" rating and one has a "strong sell" rating.

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