* Closings to begin in January
* CityCenter to begin phased opening in December (Adds attorney comment)
LOS ANGELES, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Condominium prices at CityCenter, the $8.5 billion Las Vegas Strip complex being built by partners MGM Mirage MGM.N and Dubai World, will be cut by 30 percent after buyers balked at closing deals signed at the height of the housing bubble.
The developers said on Monday that the price reduction will be offered to existing buyers of units at CityCenter’s Mandarin Oriental, Veer Towers and Vdara Condo Hotel. The towers include a total of 2,400 condominium units.
“Nobody would close at the old prices,” said Sanford Bernstein analyst Janet Brashear. “They are between a rock and a hard place ... they want to sell the units, but these are some of their best customers.”
The units, originally priced from $500,000 to just over $9 million, came on the market in early 2007 -- when the real estate market was still booming and big gamblers and Vegas executives were willing to place deposits on top-dollar units in the planned luxury towers.
Casino operator MGM originally expected to take in $2.6 billion from the condo sales. The company has collected about $300 million in deposits on 1,300 units, but those buyers have since balked at following through on the sales.
“I think 30 percent is too little,” said Mark Connot, a partner with Hutchison & Steffen, a Las Vegas law firm representing some of the CityCenter buyers.
He said some units at MGM’s own Signature towers, which were sold in 2006, are now back on the market as foreclosures at prices 70 percent below what they initially sold for.
“We believe that in this economic climate this price reduction is an appropriate step to take on behalf of our buyers so as to provide them greater flexibility in closing on their residences,” Bobby Baldwin, president and chief executive of CityCenter, said in a statement.
The big question, according to Brashear, is whether the pending condo buyers “fundamentally” still want the units. “It will depend their own financial situation,” she said.
MGM spokesman Alan Feldman said “it is still to be determined” whether MGM, which has been struggling to cut its own debt load, will be offering financing to buyers of the CityCenter condominiums.
The company said it expects closings to begin in January with Mandarin Oriental buyers, in February for Veer Towers and in March for the Vdara condos.
The 67-acre complex of casinos, hotels, condominiums and shops will begin a phased opening on the Las Vegas Strip in December.
Shares of MGM, which rose 4.3 percent to close at $11.54 on the New York Stock Exchange, were little changed at $11.57 after hours.
Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Richard Chang, Bernard Orr
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