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Sands China Advances to Record on Profit Gain: Hong Kong Mover

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Sands China Ltd., controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp., advanced to a record in Hong Kong trading after Chinese gamblers helped drive a 44 percent increase in profit for the casino operator.

Fourth-quarter net income rose to $306.7 million from $213.3 million a year earlier, bringing its profit for the year to $1.13 billion. The annual profit was higher than the $1.07 billion mean estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Sands China is developing gambling resorts in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal, as rising numbers of Chinese gamblers fill tables playing blackjack and baccarat. The first phase of Sands Cotai Central is on track to open in about eight weeks, the company said today.

“The results are encouraging,” said Philip Tulk, head of Asian conglomerates and gaming research at Royal Bank of Scotland. “The upcoming property, Sands Cotai Central, is going to draw new customers.”

Sands China rose 4.9 percent to a record HK$27.75 in Hong Kong trading today, taking the gain this year to 26.4 percent. That compares with the 12.5 percent increase in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Chinese gamblers have fueled growth in Macau, where gambling sales have more than tripled in the past four years. Adelson on an earnings call said he sees no slowdown in Macau, which surpassed the Las Vegas Strip as the world’s biggest casino revenue hub in 2006.

Rising Revenue

“We are essentially seeing nothing that would indicate that Macau and Singapore will not continue on their present paths upward,” he said on the company’s conference call.

Fourth-quarter revenue for Sands China, which operates the Venetian, Four Seasons and Sands in Macau, rose 22 percent to $1.33 billion from $1.09 billion a year earlier.

Macau’s total gambling revenue climb 42 percent last year to 268 billion patacas ($33.6 billion), according to Macau’s Gaming Inspection & Coordination Bureau.

Tulk expects Macau’s revenue growth to slow to 15 percent to 20 percent in 2012, as high-stakes gamblers are likely to find it harder to raise credit. “The growth will come from the mass market” he said.

Other casino operators also rose in Hong Kong trading today, with Galaxy Entertainment gaining 5.2 percent to HK$18.12 at the close of Hong Kong trading.

Investors expect Galaxy will “deliver strong earnings as Sands China has solid fourth-quarter results,” said Victor Yip, a Hong Kong-based analyst at UOB Kay Hian Ltd.

Las Vegas Sands, Sands China’s U.S.-based parent, yesterday reported a 17 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit on growth in Singapore and China.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vinicy Chan in Hong Kong at vchan91@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephanie Wong at swong139@bloomberg.net

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