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Updated from 9:30 a.m. EDT

Investors cashed in their chips on

Las Vegas Sands


Tuesday after spying disappointing details in the company's first-quarter earnings.

The Las Vegas-based casino company, which went public last December, managed to beat Wall Street's overall earnings estimates. But analysts attributed that strong performance to lower interest payments and the good fortune of higher-than-normal house winnings.

"On a pure operating basis, results were meaningfully below our expectations," said Citigroup Smith Barney analyst Michael Rietbrock in a research note. His firm does and seeks to do business with companies covered in its research reports.

Shares slumped $2.20, or 5.7%, to $36.10. The stock hit a high of $53.98 on Dec. 20.

Rietbrock noted that revenue per available room, a key hotel metric known as revpar, increased only 1.7% year over year at the company's Venetian resort in Las Vegas. That compares to a much better 13% jump at competitor

MGM Mirage's


properties, Rietbrock said.

Also disappointing for investors, says Harry Curtis at J.P. Morgan, was nearly flat sequential earnings at the Sands Macao casino in China, which the company opened last May to tap the huge Asian gaming market. The casino's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and rent, or ebitdar, were $67.8 million in the first quarter, vs. $67.3 million in the previous quarter.

Las Vegas Sands announced its results before the bell Tuesday. Net income fell to $7.1 million, or 2 cents a share, from $49.9 million, or 15 cents a share, a year earlier.

Net income included an $86.3 million loss for early debt retirement, along with several other items. Among them was a $3.6 million charitable contribution to the Guggenheim museum, which has agreed to build a branch as part of Las Vegas Sands' proposed Singapore resort.

Without special items, Las Vegas Sands earned 29 cents a share, ahead of the 25-cent average analyst estimate from Thomson First Call.

Revenue jumped to $403.8 million from $239.2 million a year before but was below the $411.4 million analyst consensus. Overall revenue growth was driven by last May's opening of the Sands Macao.

Earnings benefited from lower interest payments as the company refinanced debt during the quarter. Payments fell to $27.1 million from $32.8 million a year before, and Citigroup's Rietbrock attributed about 2 cents a share of the company's better-than-expected performance to the change.

Earnings also benefited from the luck of the draw, as the company's table game win at the Venetian was 24%, above its normal range. That delivered about 2 cents-a-share to adjusted earnings, Rietbrock said.

Las Vegas Sands' executives acknowledged in a conference call that first-quarter revpar growth at the Venetian was hurt by foul weather in January, but added that revpar bounced back and was up 11% year over year in March. Looking ahead, they said bookings are strong, as is the convention calendar.