Las Vegas Sands Digs in for the Slowdown

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Las Vegas, NV – Las Vegas Sands Corp. said it had rearranged its development priorities and secured $2.1 billion in new financing through a stock offering to help the company weather a global economic downturn that it expects to include a soft convention and trade show market.

The company said in a November 17 statement that it “believes that it has sufficient liquidity and capital resources to both fund its ongoing operations and to execute its updated development plan.”

Sands President and COO William Weidner said booking activity in the company’s exhibitions market in Las Vegas was currently “soft,” but added that he did not see evidence that the business was heading into a long-term slump. “Right now it is really quiet, which is to be expected given the times, but we think it will revive,” Weidner said in a November 10 conference call with financial analysts.

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. expects to offset any loss of room occupancy in the group sector by being more aggressive in bivouacking gamblers in the Venetian and Palazzo hotels. Management is betting that room occupancy in the two hotels, which serve the Sands Expo and Convention Center, would remain above 90% in the coming year with rates holding just above $200 per night.

Dave Kaminer, founder of The Kaminer Group, worked as a vice president of the fabled COMDEX show in the 1980s under Sands chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. He told Trade Show Executive that the Las Vegas Sands will likely hold the line on room rates rather than give up ground and jeopardize rates down the road. He predicted The Venetian and The Palazzo will remain busy due to business at the Sands Expo and Convention Center even if shows draw smaller crowds.

“Attendees want to stay at the same facility where the show is being held,” Kaminer said. He also said Adelson is a true fan of the trade show business who will not neglect it, and added that his former boss is someone who is not easily rattled by business turmoil. “He has been in third-and-long situations before,” he said.

The Las Vegas Sands was still forced to take some draconian steps due to the economy, particularly suspending construction on the condominium tower of its St. Regis Residences project in Las Vegas and the Sites Five and Six portions of its massive development on the Cotai Strip on Macao.

“We will focus our development activities and available capital principally on the timely completion of both Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and Sands Bethlehem in Pennsylvania,” said Weidner. “At an appropriate time in the future, to the extent capital becomes available on acceptable terms, we plan to resume the development of Sites Five and Six on the Cotai Strip.”

Marina Bay Sands will include a 120,000 square-metre (about 1.29 million square feet) convention center offering 33,000 square metres (about 355,209 square feet) of flexible exhibition space as well as ballroom and meeting space. The project, which also includes 2,500 hotel rooms, is scheduled to open late next year.

Reach Ashlyn LaPorte, executive director of event management, Sands Expo, at (702) 733-5611 or alaporte@sandsexpo.com; Paul Stocker, director of sales, Marina Bay Sands, at +65 6305 6900 or paul.stocker@marinabaysands.com; Dave Kaminer at (914) 684-1934 or dkaminer@kamgrp.com