August 1, 2007 / 8:43 PM / 13 years ago

UPDATE 3-Las Vegas Sands 2nd-qtr income drops on expenses

(Adds details, Boyd and Ameristar results)

By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS.N) said on Wednesday its second-quarter net earnings fell as higher revenue from operations in Las Vegas and Macau, China’s gambling haven, was offset by higher costs.

The company, which said it is on track to open its Venetian Macau complex in late August, said net income fell to $34.4 million, or 10 cents per share, from $109.3 million, or 31 cents per share, a year earlier.

Expenses have risen sharply ahead of property openings in Macau, Singapore and the United States. Pre-opening expenses, in particular, jumped to $40.3 million in the quarter versus $4.4 million a year ago.

Excluding special items, the company earned 23 cents per share, compared with the average Wall Street forecast of 25 cents per share, as compiled by Reuters Estimates.

Net revenue rose to $612.9 million from $517.0 million a year earlier as revenue from Las Vegas casinos including the Venetian grew by nearly 20 percent to $85.4 million and Macau casino revenue rose nearly 22 percent to $373.5 million.

Revenues from hotels, restaurants and retail also were strong.

Executives said their short-term focus is getting the Venetian Macau up and running in the former Portuguese enclave, which is turning to the famed Las Vegas Strip for inspiration as it develops casinos, condominiums, high-end hotels, shopping malls and entertainment venues in an area called the Cotai Strip.

“We are now approaching a signal moment in the history of both our company and Macao,” William Weidner, the company’s president and chief operating officer said in a statement.

Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Robert LaFleur said Sands’ second-quarter results were strong and that investors now are looking to see whether Venetian Macau, the mega-resort that will anchor the Cotai Strip, will ring up the profits they expect.

“It’s going to move the needle pretty rapidly. The question is, ‘Will it be as strong is everyone anticipates?’,” LaFleur said.

Sands shares fell nearly 2 percent, or $1.57, to close at $85.68 on the New York Stock Exchange ahead of the release of the results. So far this year, the shares are down a little over 4 percent, compared with a decline of just over 9 percent for Standard & Poor’s Casinos Gambling index. .GSPCCGL

Elsewhere, Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD.N), which operates casinos in Las Vegas, the U.S. Gulf Coast and Northeast said its quarterly earnings were hurt by tough competition and issued a weak profit forecast.

Ameristar Casinos Inc. ASCA.O, which operates mainly in the U.S. Midwest, said its second-quarter profit fell due to higher costs and cut its full-year earnings forecast, anticipating slower than previously expected growth rates in most of its markets.

At the market close on Wednesday, shares of Boyd were down more than 6 percent so far this year, while Ameristar’s stock was up a little over 4 percent.

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