(Casino poll results updated with Las Vegas Sands Four Seasons apartment approval and Macau gaming revenue.)
NEW YORK (
Las Vegas Sands
will be the biggest winner of 2011, according to
This is the second year in a row investors have pegged Sands to outperform the casino sector
. At least in 2010 this prediction was dead on, with shares rallying 172% for the year-to-date period. This year 50.8% of voters said Sands stock gains will surpass that of its rivals in the New Year.
It's hard to believe Las Vegas Sands teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in 2009, with shares trading below $2.00. In 2010, the company saw a major recovery, receiving a boost from its Macau properties and new Singapore facility.
Through the first 15 days of December, Macau is on track for a 58% surge in gaming revenue year-over-year, according to Wells Fargo analyst Carlo Santarelli. In November, Sands held a 19.3% market share in the Chinese gaming enclave.
The company also said on Monday that said it received a letter from the Macau Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau, and believes its will be granted approval to sell its Four Seasons Apartments on the Cotai Strip.
The final approval would be a positive for Sands and could be worth up to $1 per share in present equity value, Santarelli estimates, saying the apartments could be sold for $800 per square foot.
This comes as investors started to get jittery regarding government restriction in Macau and just how much more steam is left in the stock. The move toward final approval of the sale of the Four Seasons apartment should ease some of these concerns.
3 Casino Stocks to Watch in 2011
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Wall Street turned bearish on the stock earlier in the month, when Macau leaders failed to approve the company's land concession for what has been known as Sites 7 and 8 on the Cotai Strip. Since then, shares of Sands have fallen nearly 12%.
Macau government has also taken steps to tighten lending, which could impact credit to VIP players, and back in March announced a ceiling for the number of gaming tables.
Nonetheless, bullish investors are choosing to focus on Las Vegas Sands' other growth opportunities in Macau, as it still has sites 3, 5 and 6 on the Cotai Strip.
Coming in a distant second is
Melco Crown Entertainment
, with 21.9% of voters believing the Macau-based company will be the big winner. Melco saw a 74% jump in shares this year and Sterne Agee analyst David Bain also calls out the stock as its top pick for 2011.
received 17.9% of the vote, followed by
with 6.9% and
Penn National Gaming
with just 2.6%.
--Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York.
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