A woman rides her bicycle with the Marina Bay Sands hotel and high rise buildings in the background in Singapore on September 4, 2023.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

Las Vegas Sands‘ recovery from the pandemic is gaining steam, and Asia is a big reason why.

The world’s largest casino company on Wednesday announced it pulled in $1.12 billion in third-quarter adjusted property EBITDA, a crucial measure of profitability in the gambling industry. That’s nearing pre-pandemic levels, off just 6% from the same period in 2019.

Las Vegas Sands announced earnings of 55 cents per share on revenues of $2.8 billion. Earnings were in line with expectations, while revenue slightly topped estimates, based on a survey of analysts by LSEG, formerly known as Refinitiv.

In Singapore, Marina Bay Sands is posting numbers that have surpassed pre-pandemic levels — in gaming, retail shopping and other spending — even though visitation is still lower. Profit margins have reached more than 48%.

In Macao, where visitation is still off about 15% from pre-pandemic levels, Sands said its occupancy in the third quarter was 96% higher than it was before Covid lockdowns and customers are spending more per person.

Across the Macao market, mass gaming revenue reached 92% of 2019 third quarter levels, or $5.1 billion, according to official government numbers. LVS CEO Rob Goldstein predicted on the company’s earnings call that the destination could hit $40 billion annually in the near term.

As cashflow increases, Las Vegas Sands is laying out new priorities for capital expenditures. It will continue its remodel of Marina Bay Sands, resulting in nearly four times the number of suites, which command greater prices. In Macao, the second phase of construction begins on The Londoner, the newest offering in the portfolio.

Las Vegas Sands also announced a $2 billion share repurchase plan to 2025.

Signage for the Sands Cotai Central casino resort, operated by Sands China Ltd., a unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp., in Macau, China, Jan. 17, 2019.

Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sands President Patrick Dumont indicated the company has shifted how it wants to return capital to shareholders, relying more on buybacks than on the dividends his late father-in-law Sheldon Adelson embraced so publicly every earnings call.

Goldstein pointed out that the shares are trading as though Covid lockdowns are still in place. So when the stock is cheap, there are buying opportunities, especially when Sands is sitting on $5.6 billion in cash.

When Bank of America analyst Shaun Kelley commented on the earnings call, “You’re probably the most under-leveraged gaming company I’ve ever covered,” Dumont said it’s been a five-year process to transform the company to be investment-grade.

“It gives us access to the largest, most liquid debt market in the world, because it’s a very efficient class of capital,” he said.

In a reference to the company’s efforts to secure a gaming license in New York, Dumont said, “Having this investment grade balance sheet also helps us in new jurisdictions, because we have the financial capability to execute on projects we propose.”

Sands’s New York proposal is for a $5 billion casino resort in Nassau County on Long Island. Sands’ competitors include MGM, which is looking for an expanded license for its existing property in Yonkers; Resorts World, which wants to expand in Queens; Caesars and Wynn, which are both looking for Manhattan sites; and Bally’s, which wants to put a casino on a former Trump property in the Bronx.

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