Las Vegas Sands CEO Adelson heads to Asia for financing as sector aces credit concerns

New York (AP) — Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said Wednesday he is seeking to raise USD 2 billion in debt financing from Asian banks to complete work on expansion projects planned by Las Vegas Sands Corp. in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.

Adelson disputed reports that that Las Vegas Sands, which operates the Venetian and Palazzo resorts in Las Vegas and the Sands Macao and the Venetian Macao in China, either had abandoned plans to secure funding or was having trouble getting banks to agree to terms.

„We hope to find a more receptive air over there than in the U.S.,“ he said in an interview with The Associated Press, explaining that foreign banks are in better shape to participate in such transactions than their U.S. counterparts right now.

The Cotai Strip project in Macau, due to be completed in 2011, is to include retail malls plus hotels that will be operated by some of the biggest names in hospitality, such as Sheraton, St. Regis, Hilton, Conrad, Shangri-La and Traders.

Adelson, who controls nearly 70 percent of Las Vegas Sands personally and through family trusts, said he can put on hold the refinancing of USD 3.3 billion in debt that comes due in 2011 to 2013.

He and his wife, Miriam Adelson, loaned the company USD 475 million this month through a 6.5 percent convertible note due in 2013. The investment helped Las Vegas Sands meet its liquidity requirements and avoid triggering a loan covenant.

„It hasn’t changed my lifestyle,“ Adelson said, though he decline to say whether he would do it again.

Adelson agreed that his confidence in Las Vegas Sands must be high if he is willing to contribute his own cash.

Las Vegas Sands is among several casino companies, including MGM Mirage and Wynn Resorts Ltd., that saw a dip in revenue in Macau this summer as China tightened visa restrictions on its residents‘ travel to the island. Chinese nationals make up more than half the patrons of casinos in Macau, which is an hour by high-speed ferry from Hong Kong.

The enclave is the only place in China where gambling is legal. And, with total revenue topping USD 10.3 billion last year — compared with USD 6.83 billion on the Las Vegas Strip — it has emerged as the world’s most lucrative gambling center.

Most of the growth has come since the government ended Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Ho’s monopoly on the gambling industry after Macau was returned to Chinese rule from Portugal in 1999.

Many casino companies have begun to feel repercussions from the credit crisis.

Boyd Gaming Corp. recently postponed work on its USD 4.8 billion Echelon resort in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas-based company, whose ratings were lowered by Moody’s last week, also suspended its annual cash common dividend.

And on Wednesday MGM‘s default rating was downgraded by Fitch Ratings partly due to its difficulty paying for the USD 9.2 billion CityCenter complex in Las Vegas. The company has reached a deal with lenders to change the terms of USD 7 billion in debt.