Thursday, February 2, 2023

Follow the money!

António Bilrero, Prémio

Sheldon Adelson, the founder of this US gambling group, died in mid-January. A month and a half later, the group announced the closure of operations in its hometown and the sale of properties, a deal involving around 6.2 billion US dollars. The objective is clear and follows what was already being planned when the founder of the company was still alive: to strengthen operations in Asia, including Macao, the world capital of gambling, and Singapore.

For António Ramirez, lawyer and consultant specialized in the gambling sector, this operation was planned and sticks to a very simple principle: “Gambling follows the money. Where’s the best place to be? In the largest economies and those witnessing greatest development”.

This expert recalls that between the 1950s and 1960s, the end of the 1990s and middle of the 21st century Las Vegas was the world capital of gambling and the USA was, clearly, the largest economy in the world.

“Currently, he points out, the US economic growth is not what it once was and there is a group of Asian countries whose economies [pre-pandemic] witness the highest growth rates.” Hence refocusing on the most populated continent on the planet is “absolutely natural”.

“When looking at these Asian economies, companies engaging in the gambling business, and related companies, such as tourism and hotels (with their luxurious and gigantic integrated resorts), are witnessing a huge increase in the number of consumers with money to spend. The option seems and is obvious”, he says.

António Ramirez also reinforces the fact that in these currently booming Asian economies, “contrary to what happens in Europe and the United States, where the consumer has a more conservative behaviour, rather focused on savings, in these economies the focus is on consumption and money spending”.

And there is also, obviously, the issue of the sale of properties in Las Vegas – The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, Sands Expo and the Convention Centre – which was a major source of profits (above $ 13.7 billion in 2019). “In 2019, 63% were generated by the Macao operations, followed by Singapore, with 22% with business operations in the United States securing only third place.

Hence, “the option to sell an asset that represents 10 or 15% of the profits, but with a much higher potential, of around $ 6.4 billion, reinforces the group intention of investing strongly in Asia”, he points out.

And he adds: “In other words, when reinvesting these 6.4 billion in other geographies (Asia), there is a real expectation that this may generate higher profits than those generated by the Las Vegas operation”.

This “relocation” therefore is “a good opportunity to secure more profits, assuming that those who engaged in this relocation believe that Asia will keep posting an economic growth greater than that which will be witnessed in the future in the USA. It is a normal move, assuming this”, he says.

António Ramirez considers that, regarding Macao, in light of the group’s recently announced operation in the State of Nevada, “Sands China now has a shareholder, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, with much more economic power and more money available to invest”.

“When the public tender for gambling concession contracts is launched in Macao, postponed due to the pandemic, Sands will have less debt and more money available, that is, it will be in a seemingly more favourable position to meet the requirements the local government may impose. All points to the fact that it will be able to call the game with good winning prospects”, he concludes.

It is worth mentioning that at the height of the pandemic, Sands Macau invested heavily in the gambling capital of the world. The group started with a project “The Londoner Macao” [whose first phase was inaugurated last February], an investment of $ 1.9 billion. During this year still, “The Londoner” shall open new services in the respective integrated ‘resort’, with particular emphasis on long-awaited ‘suites’ created by David Beckham, the “Londoner Court”, a luxury hotel with residential suites, the shopping mall “Shoppes at Londoner” and the “Londoner Arena”.

When announcing the sale of properties in the State of Nevada, the person in charge of Las Vegas Sands Corp. operations, Patrick Dumont, stated that the sale of the property for little more than six billion US dollars will allow the pursuit of the “long-standing group’s strategy of reinvesting” in Asia and, simultaneously, bringing more liquidity to the company to remunerate the “capital invested by the shareholders”.

Also on that occasion, Robert Goldstein, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Las Vegas Sands, paid tribute to Sheldon Adelson and recalled that Asia “remains the backbone of this company and our developments in Macao and Singapore are our main focus”.

“The game follows the money”!

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