Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2007, 12:00am

Wynn-ing ways all about quality, not size

Wynn Resorts may have lost first-mover advantage in Macau, and it is always the last among its rivals to release results. But it is a fun company that no one can afford to miss.

At a teleconference call at 4.30 Hong Kong time yesterday morning, chairman and chief executive Steve Wynn demonstrated he knows how to keep his audience awake by sexing up his speech to make a point.

Mr Wynn (pictured) said: 'I watch TV commercials, and without getting too cute today there's an awful lot of commercials about male enhancement, and I think if you want male enhancement, the best thing to do is call the 800 number, but if you want to make money in the gaming industry, size does not matter.'

To make his point, Mr Wynn referred to Mirage making more money in Las Vegas since the 1990s than its bigger rival MGM because the quality of earnings matters.

A Wynn Resorts annual report illustrated the point by putting three little pigs on the cover page: quality - in this case, brick houses - not size, determines the outcome in a competitive market, he said.

In the first quarter, Wynn increased profit 81 per cent to US$41.06 million, just less than half of Las Vegas Sands' earnings despite having only one-third the number of gambling tables. 'I agree with all the points that people at the Venetian have made in their conversations with the investment community about size ... we must not take tomorrow for granted. I do not think we should be anything but very conservative with this unprecedented expansion of demand in Macau,' said Mr Wynn. 'Because in Macau, we saw the same lesson of Las Vegas repeated as quickly as you could possibly see.'

Time will tell whether Wynn or Sands or King Stanley have the right formula in the booming casino city.

More carats for punters

Macau will soon be not only a city of gold but of diamonds as well.

Yesterday, Mr Wynn said he had bought the world's largest pear-shaped diamond - a 231-carat gem - six months ago in Russia, and planned to take the Wynn Diamond on a roadshow around China before putting it on show in the second phase of Wynn Resorts, which will dub its 400 rooms Diamond Suites.

Mr Wynn also owns the world's largest golden nugget - the 61-pound 'Hand of Faith' - for his Golden Nugget casino, Atlanta.

Going, going quiet

Not every land auction turns out as exciting as expected. At the first land auction of the financial year, a West Kowloon parcel of land was sold for HK$4 billion, the low end of the anticipated price.

Still, the land was won by the perennial big spender, Sino Land chairman Robert Ng Chee-siong, who bid with Nan Fung Development and K Wah International. Mr Ng shunned the spotlight on this occasion, leaving it to Nan Fung director Donald Choi Wun-hing to break the news of the make-up of the winning consortium.

The same consortium won a hotly-contested auction two months ago for two pricey sites in Tai Po. On that occasion, Mr Ng initiated a small conversation with Mr Choi in the midst of the auction in a move widely seen as bidding down the auction.

Before yesterday's event, the Land Department issued a reminder that all participants should keep their voice volume low during proceedings, perhaps explaining the unexcited nature of the auction.

Economist shoot-out

Call it the Morgan Stanley Midas touch. Even top spinners in town can't explain why Andy Xie, the former Morgan Stanley star economist, got more coverage in the past seven months than any of the current staff after he was sacked for expressing his views on Singapore.

Now things may change. Enter Qing Wang, the firm's newly hired Greater China economist from Bank of America. Mr Wang spent six years as an economist at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, versus Mr Xie's five years with the World Bank.

Double trouble

Don't trust everything you see in the press. Two years ago, local media reported that David Webb bought and sold a house in Mount Kellett Road. But it wasn't the familiar independent investor - there were at least two David Webbs in Hong Kong, according to an article on Mr Webb's website, an address we misprinted yesterday. Our apology to the site editor.