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LAS VEGAS-Harrah’s investors tendered $5 billion (58%) of the $8.6 billion of notes by this week’s offer deadline, the casino operator said Thursday. In exchange, they received $3.4 billion of new 10% Second-Priority Senior Secured Notes due 2018. A small percentage not eligible for the exchange offer tendered their notes in exchange for $102 million in cash. In addition, investors tendered 100% of the $442 million of bridge loans for 2018 notes valued at $297 million.

If the company’s goal was to push back the maturity dates of its near-term debt, it may not have been successful. More than 90% of the notes tendered and 100% of the bridge loans tendered already had 2016 or 2018 maturities. Only 20% of the $1.2 billion in notes maturing in 2010-2013 were tendered. Company spokesman Gary Thompson could not be reached Friday morning for comment.

Harrah’s didn’t say in its filing how much the exchanges will reduce its annual interest costs, which are an issue given the cash flow reductions in the casino-resort industry as a result of the recession. The owner of 53 casinos worldwide– including Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Bally’s, Paris and the Rio, all on the Las Vegas Strip–reported total debt of $24.5 billion as of Dec. 31 and said it paid $1.7 billion in interest and other debt expenses last year.

Industry sources have speculated that the tender offer is meant to keep the current owners in control of the company should it have to file for bankruptcy. The company, which posted a $4.3-billion loss for 2008, warned in March that it may not be able to meet its debt payments due to the impact of the recession on its business operations, a situation that would likely result in a Ch. 11 bankruptcy filing.

In February, Harrah’s submitted requests to tap the remaining $740 million of its $2 billion senior secured revolving credit line and suspended matching contributions to employee retirement programs. In January, it delayed the completion and opening of its 660-room addition to Caesars Palace indefinitely.

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