Sands China to create a little slice of London on Macau’s Cotai strip, as part of US$1.1b investment

Las Vegas casino giant’s move is latest effort by Macau firms to capture a growing share of big-spending Chinese tourists coming to the enclave

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 4:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 2017, 10:53pm

Las Vegas Sands, the American casino giant, is renovating and rebranding one of its major resorts in Macau – the Sands Cotai Central – into the “Londoner Macao”, as part of a US$1.1 billion, three-year investment.

The company owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson said Macau has a “tremendous future” as a leisure and tourism destination, in a report accompanying Sands’ third quarter results.

“We will invest over US$1.1 billion in new capital projects over the next three years in Macau, at Sands Cotai Central and the Four Seasons Hotel Macao,” Adelson said in a statement.

The US firm owns five casino properties in Macau through its subsidiary Sands China: the Venetian Macao, Sands Macao, The Plaza Macao, Sands Cotai Central, and the Parisian Macao.

The only legal place to gamble on Chinese soil, Macau’s gaming revenues started slipping badly in 2014, as President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-graft campaign put free-spending Chinese officials visiting the city under the spotlight, forcing many to stay away.

Adelson said the Macau market “continues to recover”.

Its latest figures show Sands China recorded adjusted property earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (ebita ) – an approximate measure of a company’s operating cash flow – of US$652 million for the third quarter, its best quarterly result since the first quarter 2014.

That was attributed mainly to “strong visitations” to the newly opened Parisian, which earned adjusted property ebita of US$135 million during the period, up 27.4 per cent compared to the second quarter.

Sands has a tradition of giving foreign themes to its Macau resorts.

The Parisian, opened last year, features a half-scale recreation of the Eiffel Tower, while the decade-old Venetian allows visitors rides on traditional flat-bottomed gondolas, along a canal that flows through the resort.

The remodelling of Sands Cotai is aimed at attracting both VIP and mass-market customers, said Angela Han Lee, an analyst at China Merchants Securities.

That’s becoming very much the norm for Macau operators, to improve their ability to capture a growing share of big-spending Chinese tourists coming to the enclave.

Sands said the “Londoner” will feature attractions based on the British capital’s most recognisable landmarks, an expanded retail mall and 350 new suites.

While part of the overall US$1.1 billion investment will also be spent at the Four Seasons Hotel, to add another 295 new suites in a separate tower.

Sands reported third quarter net revenue up 2.2 per cent to US $3.2 billion, led by growth in both Macau and Singapore.