March 2, 2010 / 1:04 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Sands China Q4 lags forecast, margins to expand

* 2009 net profit up 22 pct, behind forecasts

* Q4 net at $69.1 million, based on Reuters calculations

(Recasts lead, adds details)

By Sui-Lee Wee

HONG KONG, March 2 (Reuters) - Sands China (1928.HK), the world’s most valuable casino operator by market value, posted quarterly earnings slightly behind forecasts but said its cost savings and efficiency programmes would boost future margins.

The company said on Tuesday it annual net profit for 2009 rose 22 percent to $213.8 million from $175.7 million a year earlier driven by a surge in gambling revenue in Macau, below a consensus forecast of $219.6 million.

Its net profit for the October-December period was $69.1 million, based on Reuters calculations, lagging a consensus forecast of $74.9 million from seven analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The results were the first from Sands, 70-percent-owned by Las Vegas Sands (LVS.N), since it was listed last November. The company did not provide fourth quarter earnings.

Las Vegas Sands earlier said its Macau earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and rent (EBITDAR) rose 48 percent in the fourth quarter — by focusing on mass gaming, hotel and retail businesses, while controlling costs. [ID:nN17148997]

Sands said it was successful in implementing all of its identified cost savings initiatives by the end of last year.

“I believe that these initiatives will allow us to expand our adjusted EBITDAR margins in the future and will provide enhanced operating leverage in the months and years ahead,” Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson said in a statement.

Las Vegas Sands posted a narrowing fourth-quarter loss on Feb. 18, but disappointed investors hoping for even better results from its Macau operations.

Sands owns two casinos in Macau, including the Venetian Macau, the world’s largest.

Operating income at the company’s Venetian Macao resort nearly doubled to $119.7 million during the quarter, while operating income at The Sands Macao rose 13 percent to $43.9 million.

Gambling revenue in Macau reached a high of $1.8 billion in January, signalling sustained growth in the world’s largest gambling market and the only place in China where gambling is legal. [ID:nTOE61102O]

On Feb. 25, Wynn Macau (1128.HK) reported a near doubling of fourth-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to $142 million, beating analysts’ expectations. [ID:nN25252395]

Shares in Sands China have risen 5 percent since its $2.5 billion initial public offering in November last year, outperforming Wynn Macau, which was largely flat in the same period.

Sands, valued at $11.4 billion, competes in Macau with Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment Group (0027.HK), SJM Holdings (0880.HK), Melco Crown Entertainment MPEL.O and MGM Mirage (MGM.N).

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