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LAS VEGAS-Following through on its plans to sell stock and buy back debt, Wynn Resorts Ltd. said Wednesday that it has purchased at a discount $625 million of loans previously made to the company. The loans were purchased for 95.4% of the total owed, or $596 million, according to an SEC filing. The total included nearly $200 million of loans made to the company by Steve Wynn, its chairman and chief executive.

Last month, despite not having liquidity issues like some of its peers, the upscale casino company announced a five-million-share offering one afternoon, citing expected demand from its addition to the S&P 500, and then a few hours later upped the offering to eight million shares and priced it at $43.50 per share. Even prior to the 60% increase in the offering, which closed successfully a few days later, analysts were speculating that company chairman Steve Wynn was being opportunistic in terms of raising capital, using its strong market position to better its balance sheet.

Along with the offering, Wynn amended its credit agreement, permitting it to from time to time to purchase loans outstanding under the credit agreement. The repurchases are limited to $650 million and all repurchases need to close on or before March 31, 2009, according to the agreement.

Also Wednesday, Citigroup initiated coverage of Wynn Resorts with a “sell” rating and a price target of $29, saying it does not see any catalysts for the stock until the second half of 2009. Citigroup analyst Anil Daswani said in a note to clients that although Citigroup believes Wynn is the best positioned US casino operator in Macau, this month’s opening of the Encore in Las Vegas along with visa issues and commission caps in Macau “leave many landmines in the road ahead.”

Shares of Wynn Resorts stood at $36.54 in afternoon trading Wednesday, off $1.02 on the day. A little more than one year ago, the company’s share price was upward of $140 per share.

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