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LAS VEGAS-Las Vegas Sands Corp. reported a larger first quarter loss than last year due to lower revenue and higher expenses but still exceeded analysts’ average expectation. The operator of the Venetian and Palazzo casinos on the Las Vegas Strip and the Venetian Macau in China posted a first quarter loss of $87.7 million, or $0.14 per share, after paying dividends. In the same 2008 period it lost $11.2 million or $0.03 per share.

Excluding one-time items, though, the company earned $0.01 per share on revenue of $1.08 billion. Analysts’ average expectation was for a loss of $0.02 per share. The results were announced after the close of trading markets on Tuesday, when the company’s share price stood at $11.34. On Wednesday, the company’s share price fell 9.6% ($1.09) to $10.25 after trading as high as $11.84. In the past year its share price has been as high as $76.50 (5/16/08) and as low as $1.38 (3/9/09) due to concerns about its heavy debt load, which stood at $10.5-billion at the start of the year.

In November, Las Vegas Sands revealed that it was in danger of defaulting on $5.2 billion in credit facilities secured by its US operations, halted construction at its active development sites worldwide and then completed an emergency $2.1-billion capital raise, thereby removing “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” Further addressing those concerns in its first quarter report, company chairman/CEO Sheldon Adelson said the company remains focused on reducing its leverage.

“The complete implementation of our $470 million cost savings program, together with the future addition of operating cash flows from the openings of our properties currently under development in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Singapore, will significantly enhance our financial position,” he said. “We believe we have opportunities to generate additional liquidity, should we choose to do so, through the monetization of non-core assets or the sale of minority interests in certain of our operating assets or subsidiaries in Macao. We remain confident that our currently available liquidity and capital resources, coupled with our opportunities to generate additional liquidity, provide sufficient means to complete our current development plans and meet our obligations.”

In Las Vegas, compared to the first quarter of 2008, when it opened its Palazzo resort on the Las Vegas Strip, casino revenues for Las Vegas Sands fell 12.2% in the first quarter of 2009 and room revenues dipped 9.8% while food and beverage revenues grew by 8.8% and “retail and other” revenues grew by 16.6%. Net revenue fell 9.7% to $317.5 million. Operating income was $25.5 million, which is off by more than 55% from the same 2008 period.

Average occupancy at the Venetian in the first quarter of 2009 fell 200 basis points to 89.1% from the same year-earlier period while its average daily room rate fell 23.7% ($65) to $209 and revenue per available room fell 25.2% ($63) to $187. Average occupancy at the Palazzo, which opened Jan. 6, 2008 into a terrible market, jumped 1,360 basis points to 92.7%. The Palazzo’s ADR averaged $221 for the first three months of 2009, down 9.4% ($23) while RevPAR increased by 5/7% ($11) to $204.

Like Steve Wynn (Wynn Resorts) and Jim Murren (MGM Mirage) Adelson says business has improved from the final three months of 2008 and booking an gaming trends began picking up in March and continued to improve in April.

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