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Analysts boost prospects for three casino operators

14 Apr 2010

By Howard Stutz
LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Maybe that 33 percent increase in Strip gaming revenues during February impressed Wall Street.

Analyst Steven Kent of Goldman Sachs and Joe Greff of JPMorgan increased their price target for MGM Mirage Tuesday. Greff also upped his opinion of Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Kent and Greff said that MGM Mirage would benefit from improving travel, a sign that room rates and occupancy are improving in Las Vegas.

"We are raising our 12-month price target on MGM Mirage shares given improving business travel trends and our continued confidence that MGM Mirage will complete asset sales according to plan to deleverage the balance sheet," Kent told investors.

In February MGM Mirage reached a deal with lenders to extend the deadline for paying off about $3.6 billion of its $13 billion in debt to February 2014.

Greff thought investors are under appreciating MGM Mirage's advance convention bookings.

"We continue to believe that the group booking acceleration should drive improved blended Strip room rates based on positive mix shift," Greff said.

Shares of MGM Mirage closed Tuesday at $15.41 on the New York Stock Exchange, up 37 cents of 2.46 percent.

Greff also praised Las Vegas Sands, saying the company will benefit an improving Las Vegas market and the opening of the $5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which has a soft opening in two weeks, followed by a grand opening in June.

Las Vegas Sands closed Tuesday at $24.39 on the New York Stock Exchange, up 17 cents of 0.70 percent.

Greff said Wynn Resorts should continue to see strong results from Wynn Macau. The company opens a second Macau casino later this month.

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