By Kennix Chim and Sui-Lee Wee, Reuters
HONG KONG, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Las Vegas Sands, the world’s most valuable casino operator, is eyeing potential expansion in Japan, Thailand and India as it looks for growth opportunities in the vibrant Asian region as soon as next year, its chief executive said.
Sands, which is building its $5.5 billion Singapore casino resort that is set to be open in March next year, could expand into these markets through a joint venture between Las Vegas Sands and Sands China, its Macau unit, CEO Sheldon Adelson told Reuters in an interview on Monday, following the trading debut in Hong Kong of Sands China.
Shares in Sands China made a weak debut in Hong Kong on Monday, signalling fading investor appetite for a casino company with a high valuation and an uncertain outlook, and cooling interest in what has been a red-hot sector..
Asked which would be the key Asian markets for Sands’ possible expansion, Adelson said: “The rumours are that Japan and Thailand are the most likely. I just heard something about India, maybe there’s something going on in India.”
“If another Asian country opens up, we are very likely to do joint ventures between Las Vegas Sands and Sands China, to do other properties in Asia.”
Adelson, also the company’s chairman, founder and majority-owner, said the firm could also look to expand into Vietnam or Malaysia.
An expansion into any of these Asian markets could happen as early as next year, Adelson said.
NO BUYING PLANS IN VEGAS
The 76-year-old billionaire said there were no plans for Sands to inject its Singapore assets into Sands China and that the firm was not interested in acquisitions in Las Vegas.
“I’m not interested in buying opportunities in Vegas,” he said. “Unless I can take something in Vegas and convert it to something we’re specialists in, the convention business, there is nothing in Vegas we’ll seriously consider acquiring.”
Sands China offers investors a company that is heavily debt-ridden, but which boasts a strong growth outlook in Macau, the world’s biggest and fastest-growing gambling market.
Sands was the first U.S. casino operator to cash in on the Chinese passion for punting when it entered Macau in 2004 after the government opened the gambling market to outsiders.
Sands China owns two casino resorts and a hotel in Macau.
In Las Vegas, where Sands operates the Venetian, the Palazzo and the Sands Convention Center, the firm is seeing a rebound in the meetings and conventions segment, Adelson said.
Any future capital-raising will be done through bonds, Adelson said.
“We’re not going back to sell shares,” he said. “If we need to raise money, it’ll be done through bonds.”
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
This story was posted on Mon, November 30, 2009
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