Las Vegas Sands IPO Comes Up a Winner

Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s initial public offering received a frothy reception from investors hungry to bet on another casino company.

The Las Vegas casino company sold 23.81 million shares at $29 each Tuesday, above the $24 to $26 price target. The offering raised $690.5 million.

The company's stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LVS.

Las Vegas Sands had filed to sell 23.8 million shares, although underwriters led by Goldman Sachs had the option to purchase an additional 3.5 million shares.

Demand was strong leading up to the IPO, allowing the company to lift its price target last Friday to $24 to $26 a share, vs. the previous range of $20 to $22 a share.

Business is booming in Las Vegas, and casino company stocks have been riding high this year, with the Dow Jones Casinos Index up more than 25% year to date. By comparison, the S&P 500 is up about 7%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained only about 1%.

Las Vegas Sands' properties include the Venetian Casino Resort on the Las Vegas Strip, complete with gondola rides and a replica of Venice's St. Mark's Square. The Venetian stands on storied ground: the site of the old Sands Hotel and Casino. Razed in 1996, the Sands was a favorite hangout of Rat Packers such as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

Also in Las Vegas is the Sands Expo and Convention Center, a 1.15 million-square-foot convention and trade show complex that benefits from midweek conference business.

The company is spending $1.6 billion to build another Las Vegas property, the Palazzo Casino Resort, with a grand opening set for the second quarter of 2007

With its big Las Vegas properties, the company competes with MGM Mirage ( MGG), which is working to close its acquisition of Mandalay Resort Group ( MBG), and Harrah's Entertainment ( HET), which is in the process of acquiring Caesars Entertainment ( CZR).

But Las Vegas Sands is also working hard across the Pacific. Its Sands Macao Casino opened in May in the former Portuguese colony, which is the only area in China that permits casino gambling. The company also plans to build a Macao version of the Venetian by 2008 for $1.8 billion.

Its Macao business also makes it a close competitor with casino tycoon Steve Wynn's Wynn Resorts ( WYNN). In addition to a high-end Las Vegas casino expected to open early next year, Wynn plans to build a Macao casino in 2007.

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