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MGM Resorts reverses second-quarter loss

9 Aug 2011

By Howard Stutz
LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- MGM Resorts International used its quarterly earnings conference call to somewhat soothe the nerves of the investment community, battered by Monday's 634-point loss in the stock market.

The casino giant, which operates 10 resorts on the Strip, including CityCenter Aria Resort & Casino , Bellagio and the MGM Grand Las Vegas, had scheduled its second-quarter earnings release several weeks ago. It just so happened the event took place shortly after the Dow Jones Industrials suffered its largest one-day decline since December 2008.

MGM Resorts told investors it reversed a second-quarter net loss from a year ago, thanks mostly to $3.5 billion raised through its Hong Kong Stock Exchange initial public offering in June.

Company executives said visitation trends in Las Vegas were strong in the first six months of the year and haven't shown signs of diminishing. Room rates and customer spending increased at most of the company's Strip resorts.

In an interview following a conference call with analysts and investors, MGM Resorts Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren, said he didn't believe stock market turmoil would affect continued visitation to Las Vegas.

He said the company's hotel-casinos in Las Vegas have experienced year-over-year growth in cash flow through June, and bookings haven't slowed since.

Murren acknowledged that any dip in consumer confidence could hurt Las Vegas. But the chaos in the financial markets over the past few weeks has not seemingly found its way to the Strip.

"From what we've seen, the trends are still solid and improving," Murren said. "The foundation of the Las Vegas recovery is solid and our business is building. No one knows what the impact will be. We made significant strides in the second quarter and what we see happening in Las Vegas is a good story. Bookings are up for both the summer and the fall."

KDP Investment Advisors gaming analyst Barbara Cappaert, in a research note shortly after MGM Resorts reported its quarterly results. said it was too early to tell whether the troubles on Wall Street would hurt visitation to Las Vegas.

"The uneasiness in the financial markets may impact booking rates into next year," Cappaert said. "Nonetheless, management is strong and should be able to maneuver any downdraft effectively as it did just two years ago."

MGM Resorts said its net income for the quarter that ended June 30 was $3.4 billion, or $6.22 cents per share. A year ago, MGM Resorts lost $883.5 million, or $2 a share.

In a statement, MGM Resorts said the company benefited from gaining a 51 percent majority stake in the MGM Grand Macau, after launching its Hong Kong IPO. The $3.5 billion was worth $6.30 a share. Without the $3.5 billion infusion, MGM Resorts would have lost 8 cents per share.

Analysts polled by FactSet Research expected the company to lose 14 cents per share.

A year ago, MGM Resorts' earnings were hurt by a noncash impairment charge of about $1.12 billion related to the company's investment in CityCenter.

Revenue in the second quarter rose nearly 17 percent, to $1.81 billion, from $1.55 billion last year.

MGM Resorts' share price fell $1.12 on the New York Stock Exchange, or 8.85 percent, to close at $11.54. The company's shares continued to fall in after-hours trading, declining about 2 percent.

On the Strip, room revenues from the company's casinos grew 9 percent in the quarter while revenue per available room, which tracks customer spending, rose 10 percent from a year ago. MGM Resorts said slot revenues grew 7 percent at its Strip casinos between April and June.

At CityCenter, which the company co-owns with Dubai World, net revenues grew 50 percent to $275 million while net revenue at Aria, the 4,004-room hotel-casino centerpiece of the $8.5 billion development, increased 48 percent to $233 million.

Aria's occupancy was 90 percent during the quarter with an average daily room rate of $202. Revenue per available room increased 28 percent from a year ago.

Two other CityCenter entities, the nongaming Vdara Hotel and the Crystals retail mall, each reported positive cash flow.

However, the largest draw-down at City Center is the residential operations, which recognized impairment charges of $53 million.

MGM Resorts' new ownership stake in the MGM Grand Macau allowed the company to report greater financial details about the 600-room hotel casino it has operated since December 2007.

The property collected revenues of $668 million in the quarter, compared with $307 million in the same quarter a year ago. The company said MGM Grand Macau saw 110 percent increases in VIP table game wagering and a 21 percent increase in wagering on the main casino floor.

Cash flow at the MGM Grand Macau grew 177 percent.

"One of the great opportunities for investors is that we are now able to publish detailed financial data that shows our Macau property is one of the most profitable in the market," Murren said. "The acquisition of a controlling interest in MGM China marks an important step in expanding our global operations and profitability."

Murren said MGM Resorts has made progress in working with the Macau government to secure land for a potential hotel-casino on the Cotai Strip, and would soon begin work there.
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