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LAS VEGAS-With little mention of its bid to acquire a piece of Station Casinos or its stalled mega-resort development on the Las Vegas Strip, Boyd Gaming Corp. on Thursday reported a fourth quarter loss of 220.8 million ($2.51 per share) due to $290.2 million of impairment charges related to the recessionary economy. In the same year-earlier period, the company recorded a profit of $31.0 million ($0.35 per share).

Without the one-time impairment charges, taken in part to write down the value of some acquisitions, earnings were $11.4 million ($0.13 per share), in line with analysts’ average expectation. In the same year-earlier period, the company’s adjusted EBITDA of $34.9 million ($0.39 per share).

Boyd owns nine operating properties in the Downtown and Locals’ markets of Las Vegas. Led by the Orleans hotel-casino, the company’s six properties in the Las Vegas locals’ market produced net revenues of $176.8 million in the final three months of the year, down 17.5% from $214.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. Adjusted EBITDA for its locals’ properties fell 39.8% to $43.8 million from $72.8 million.

“Results were impacted by rising unemployment and decreased consumer spending in the Las Vegas Valley, increased supply, and weakness in room rates throughout the market,” the company said.

The company’s three properties in the Downtown Las Vegas market generated net revenues of $60.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, down 9.1% from $66.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. Adjusted EBITDA was $13.3 million, down 10.1% from $14.8 million. In addition to the generally adverse economic conditions Boyd attributed its Downtown results to reduced air capacity between Hawaii and Las Vegas only partially offset by improved results from its charter operations.

“We experienced our largest year-over-year declines in the fourth quarter,” Keith Smith, the company’s top executive, told analysts during the quarterly conference call. Smith said its Downtown properties held up better than the others locally because “the scale of the operations allows us to remain profitable at lower price points.”

While the company doesn’t discuss occupancy at its properties, hotel occupancy across all Las Vegas hotel properties grew progressively worse through the fourth quarter when compared to 2007, forcing down the ADR and RevPAR. Average hotel occupancy in October, November and December was 87.9%, 83.1% and 76.9%, respectively, in the final three months of 2008, compared to 95.1%, 90.7% and 87.4% for the final three months of 2007. The year-over-year decline grew from 720 basis points in October to 1,070 points in December.

“Resorts on the Strip drastically cut room rates, forcing off-Strip properties to respond in kind,” Smith said. “The Strip properties are competing with us for the local customer; we’ve seen some of that in the fourth quarter and will continue to see it as [Strip operators] look to grow into a market they typically have not really focused on.”

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