Las Vegas Sands Corp, the casino developer planning to spend US$12 billion on Macau resorts, may be forced to halt construction on a US$3.3 billion Cotai casino complex to fend off a cash crunch and avoid breaching terms of its US$8.92 billion in existing debt. When it reports third-quarter earnings in the next few days, investors are hoping the company will avoid such a scenario by revealing details of a capital-raising programme announced last week and involving chairman and majority shareholder Sheldon Adelson. Failure to do so is likely to compound challenges for Las Vegas Sands and may force it to delay projects in Macau, including a 6,400-room casino complex with Sheraton, Shangri-La, Traders and St Regis hotels that already towers over the Cotai skyline across the street from the Venetian Macao. 'Casino operators are playing the game of chicken, with the losers being those who have to delay new project openings,' Credit Suisse gaming analyst Gabriel Chan wrote this week in a research note. For Las Vegas Sands, 'the lack of additional funding may lead to the eventual delay of construction and the opening of new projects'. Despite the injection of US$475 million of his own money last month, Mr Adelson's firm has become increasingly pressed for cash in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore as a result of the global credit crisis, which has cut off its ability to raise funding for projects under construction or renegotiate terms of its existing debt. At the same time, it is facing declining revenue and profit in Las Vegas and Macau owing to weakened demand from customers and Beijing's travel restrictions. 'Due to its extensive development pipeline, Las Vegas Sands' free cash-flow outlook is very weak on a corporate-wide basis for at least the next few years,' Fitch Ratings analysts wrote last week in a research report. Partly in response to the cash crunch, the company's stock has entered a free-fall. The shares have lost 95 per cent of their value in the year to date and dropped 85 per cent in the past month to close on Tuesday at US$4.95 each, compared with an intraday peak of US$144.56 a year earlier. Investors are on edge because of the company's high leverage ratio and weakening cash flows. Las Vegas Sands' interest payments have surpassed company's operating income during three of the past four quarters, meaning it is paying the interest on loans out of the principal. Its Macau subsidiary has so far been unable to refinance its US$3.3 billion in existing debt and has been forced to rely on cash injections from the US parent company to fund construction on Cotai, analysts at ratings agency Standard & Poor's wrote last week in a research report. 'The company needs a larger and more permanent capital structure in the near term,' they wrote. The agency downgraded Las Vegas Sands' credit rating last month. The price of its credit default swaps, which protect its lenders in the event it defaults on its loans, has soared as investors worry about its ability to repay its loans and has nearly tripled in the past month alone. The company is expected to report quarterly results and host a conference call late this week. In a Bloomberg survey, 18 analysts expect adjusted earnings to improve slightly to 10.1 US cents per share, down from 12 US cents a year ago but up from 9 US cents the previous quarter.