|By Chris Jones, Las Vegas Review-Journal|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
June 11, 2004 - Demonstrating renewed confidence in Asian gaming regulators, Wynn Resorts Ltd. has revealed new details of its proposed hotel-casino in the Chinese enclave of Macau, including a larger-than-expected construction schedule and budget of approximately $705 million.
A document filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission said the Las Vegas-based developer hopes to build a 600-room hotel and accompanying 100,000-square-foot casino in Asia. Plans also call for seven restaurants, 28,000 square feet of retail space, entertainment areas, a spa and and a salon.
The project -- now titled Wynn Macau -- will be built on approximately 16 acres near Macau's inner harbor, directly opposite the city's best-known hotel-casino, the Hotel Lisboa, the document said.
News of Wynn Macau's progress shows the company's brain trust is comfortable with the Macau Legislature's May 31 decision to allow casino operators to extend credit to gaming customers and enforce debts in the area. That legislation, which is expected to be signed this month by Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho, would become effective July 1.
Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn last summer told the Review-Journal such reforms had to take place for his company to proceed in the area.
Wynn did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.
In a research note, Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Marc Falcone, whose company will help finance Wynn's project, said casino operators' likely ability to begin extending credit to customers is good news for Wynn's company.
However, Falcone expressed concern about the project's increased size and construction schedule.
"We are somewhat frustrated by both the new cost of the project and the new timeline," wrote Falcone, who expected that a $575 million to $600 million project would open in early- to mid-2006. "We would have preferred to see Wynn open a smaller and less ambitious project earlier to be followed later by a larger, more extensive property."
Wynn's June 2002 agreement with Macau officials mandates his company will finish construction of the first phase of the resort and entertainment complex by 2006. Falcone said the late 2006 opening announced Thursday is "cutting it pretty close."
Wynn Resorts will break ground on its project on June 28 and has obligated its contractors to "substantially complete" the project within 26 months, or approximately September 2006. Falcone said that timeline is about three to six months later than expected.
On June 4, Wynn Macau officials said their company had agreed to lease the 16-acre parcel from the Macau government for an initial term of 25 years with rights to extend that deal indefinitely. The company will make an initial payment of $40 million (paid in 10 semiannual installments), plus another $17 million to the Nam Van Development Co. in exchange for that company's rights to a portion of the site.
Wynn Macau must also make lease payments of $400,000 per year over the 25-year agreement.
Also Thursday, Wynn Resorts said it had struck a deal to finance the project in part through a $397 million agreement with Deutsche Bank AG and Societe Generale Asia Ltd.
The Hotel Lisboa is one of many Macau casino properties owned by Stanley Ho, an Asian billionaire whose Sociedade de Jogos de Macau enjoyed sole possession of the former Portuguese colony's lucrative gaming market for four decades. Chinese government leaders recently decided to break up that monopoly.
More than two years ago, new gaming licenses were awarded to Wynn Resorts and Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands, which last month opened its $240 million Sands Macau, the first of two casino projects Adelson has planned for the area.
Wynn Resorts closed Thursday at $41.57, down $1.45, or 3.37 percent, on 521,642 shares traded.
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