Published July 9, 2009

Marina Bay Sands opening delayed to 2010


LAS VEGAS Sands (LVS) will launch its Marina Bay Sands (MBS) integrated resort later than expected, with doors opening in January or February instead of at end-2009.

Early-2010 will also be when LVS is likely to re-start construction work on stalled sites in Macau, as financing is expected to be 'settled' by September, LVS chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson said yesterday.

In town for a ceremony to mark the topping out of three 55-storey hotel towers at MBS, Mr Adelson said that depending on future market conditions, LVS could sell non-core assets at MBS, such as the retail mall, and use the cash to repay loans.

His comments on non-core assets were in response to questions on whether LVS might float MBS here.

There are no plans for an IPO of Singapore assets. But in Macau - where LVS owns several casino resorts, including the Venetian Macau - Mr Adelson said that LVS is 'actively and seriously' looking at several options to secure funding for its stalled Macau projects.

These include an IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange of its Macau properties, which could raise US$3 billion - US$4 billion.

However, Mr Adelson said that LVS is also considering new equity partners and selling non-core assets in Macau, including retail malls and condominiums.

LVS announced late last year that it would suspend the development of Sites 5 and 6 on Macau's Cotai Strip due to the global credit crunch, and focus on completing MBS instead.

Financing for MBS is secured.

One reason for the delay in opening MBS is said to be the complex structure of the Sands SkyPark, an aerial park that will link and crown the three hotel towers. As such, MBS is likely to open in phases, Mr Adelson said. But the phases are not likely to be far apart, he added.

Building conditions have not always been favourable, he explained.

'We can't control the flow of sand to make concrete. We can't control the availability of steel. And we can't control the availability of labour due to other projects that are in the market.'

The first attractions to open will be key revenue drivers - including the casino, which is at an advanced stage of construction.

No events are expected before April 1 for the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibition (Mice) facilities.

However, Mr Adelson, a Mice veteran, said that MBS is negotiating about 150 Mice events contracts - most of them new to Singapore.

The hotels will also be a key component of MBS, with about 2,600 rooms and suites in total. While the number of rooms is lower than the projected 3,000 when LVS won the public tender to build the IR in 2006. Mr Adelson said that MBS will be 'pushing business to other hotels'.

MBS has been in discussions with other hoteliers in the area, he revealed. Some had feared MBS would wage a price war to attract customers. Mr Adelson said that MBS wanted to assure other players it would not do this.

On the contrary, he said 'we will be pushing up room rates', because MBS will offer something unique.