* Company could net $773 million from co-op sales
* Buyers likely to be VIP gamblers, affluent visitors
* Government OK allows new concept for market-analyst (Adds analyst comments, details on deal and share info)
HONG KONG, June 5 (Reuters) - Macau casino Sands China Ltd , controlled by U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has received approval to transfer land rights for an apartment-hotel tower that allows it to sell shares in a property in the world’s largest gambling center.
The company has been trying since 2008 to make money from the 30-storey sandstone coloured block on Macau’s Cotai strip. The approval from the government paves the way for Sands to earn close to HK$6 billion ($773.08 million) in net proceeds according to analyst estimates.
Sands China, who announced the approval on Wednesday, will sell shares that give prospective buyers’ rights to an apartment rather than the buyer purchasing the flat outright. This “co-op fashion” is in compliance with local rules as casino companies are not allowed to sell property in Macau.
Buyers would likely be VIP customers or affluent visitors to the Chinese gambling hub.
Grant Govertsen of Union Gaming in Macau said the apartment tower’s area of 750,000 square feet would likely be sold at a price of HK$10,000 per square foot.
“I don’t think this means they can sell tomorrow, but it certainly indicates that the government is clearly willing to work with them on this to be able to sell co-op style apartments, which is a new concept for the market,” he said.
The apartments will be branded and serviced by the Four Seasons Hotel. Sands currently operates the Venetian and Four Seasons Resorts next to the apartment tower.
Shares in Sands China were little changed after the announcement, down 2.3 percent in line with the broader market .
($1 = 7.7612 Hong Kong dollars)
Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Matt Driskill