Adelson Sells LV Sands Shares - Saturday 18th of February 2006

by Howard Stutz

Las Vegas Gaming Wire

LAS VEGAS Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson could realize more than $2.2 billion once he sells almost 43 million shares of company stock by the end of March.

And, when completed, Adelson will still retain control of more than 63 percent of Las Vegas Sands.

The casino operator announced late Tuesday it had registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to allow Adelson, several Adelson family trusts, company executives and company board members to sell a combined 55 million shares in a secondary stock offering.

The sale will reduce Adelson's current 75.3 percent majority control of Las Vegas Sands.

In a statement, the company said the shares were being sold by the stockholders and Las Vegas Sands would not receive any proceeds from the offering.

No sale price was given and the offering is expected to close by the end of March.

Based on Wednesday's $52.02 closing price of Las Vegas Sands stock, the value of Adelson's stock offering was more than $2.2 billion. Las Vegas Sands shares finished at a new 52-week high on the New York Stock Exchange and were up $1.61, up 3.19 percent. More than 5.3 million shares were traded, five times the average daily volume.

According to the lengthy filing, as of Jan. 31, there were more than 354.1 million shares of Las Vegas Sands stock outstanding held by 133 stockholders of record.

Las Vegas Sands announced the stock sale within minutes after releasing its fourth quarter earnings on Tuesday.

Adelson did not comment on his reason for the sale.

During a conference call with analysts and investors to discuss the company's quarterly financial results, Las Vegas Sands President Bill Weidner cut off any questions about the stock sale. Weidner said he and other company officers were restricted from answering questions about the stock offering because of Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

The sale comes at a time when Las Vegas Sands is in an expansion mode. The company is building the $1.8 billion Palazzo, a 3,025-room hotel-casino next to its Venetian on the Strip with an opening planned in 2007. Las Vegas Sands is also the master-developer of eight resorts on the Cotai Strip in Macau, China. The Cotai Strip will be anchored by Venetian Macau, a $2 billion resort expected to open in the summer of 2007.

Las Vegas Sands also operates the Sands Macau and is facing competition from hotel-casinos under construction by Wynn Resorts and MGM Mirage. Wynn Macau is expected to open later this year.

Gaming analysts didn't read much into Adelson's stock sale because he still maintains a large controlling chunk of the company.

"This offering is not a complete surprise, reducing insider ownership and improving the liquidity of the stock," Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Marc Falcone said Wednesday in a note to investors. "However, we find the timing of the sale interesting, ahead of the opening of Wynn Macau in the third quarter of 2006."

Steven Wieczynski of Stifel, Nicolaus Capital Markets in Baltimore said the sale would be good for stock market speculators because it puts more shares into play.

"This announcement was not a surprise and we view this announcement as a positive since it will add liquidity to the shares," Wieczynski said.

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