- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Casino companies Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. each said Tuesday that they amended their debt agreements to get more breathing room as they repay billions of dollars in notes.

All four of the nation’s largest casino companies _ MGM Mirage and Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., in addition to Las Vegas Sands and Wynn _ have sought new debt agreements to help them cope with falling revenue during the global recession.

Wynn Resorts said its new agreement waives certain covenants until June 2011 and extends to July 2013 the maturity on $610 million of its remaining $697 million in revolving credit. The Las Vegas-based company run by billionaire Steve Wynn, who owns 21.4 percent of its outstanding stock, says that, in exchange, it has agreed to a higher overall rate on the debt.

Wynn Resorts said its rate would increase to 2.6 percent above the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, from 1.7 percent above Libor. Libor is the rate set by the British Bankers’ Association based on the rates London banks borrow funds from one another.

The company said it has $4.5 billion in long-term debt and more than $1.3 billion in cash. Company officials declined to comment on the loan agreement.

Wynn Resorts opened the $2.3 billion Encore Las Vegas casino-resort in December and is building the $700 million Encore Macau casino in China, which it expects to open in 2010 with 400 luxury suites and four villas.

Las Vegas Sands _ which had $10.47 billion in long-term debt as of Dec. 31, according to its 2008 annual report _ said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that the agreement it reached last week with its lenders lets it buy back up to $800 million in debt.

Sands spokesman Ron Reese said Tuesday that the company does not intend to repurchase its debt right now, echoing the sentiments of billionaire chief executive Sheldon Adelson in an interview with The Associated Press in March, when the company was negotiating the plan with its lenders.

Adelson _ who along with his wife, Miriam, owns or controls 52 percent of the company’s outstanding stock _ said then that the company just wanted to have the option of buying back its debt as it worked to avoid breaching its debt covenants.

“We don’t have any intention now, and we have no intention of having an intention in the very near future,” Adelson told the AP on March 24. “Right now, it’s not necessary for us to do this.”

The company said Tuesday it would use so-called Dutch auctions to determine the price and there is no guarantee it will be able to buy back the loans for less than it already owes on them.

The company is building casinos in Bethlehem, Pa., and Singapore, and Adelson has said he is in talks with four groups interested in buying into the company. Two of the groups are construction firms interested in financing and building two suspended hotel projects in Macau in exchange for an ownership interest in the projects, Adelson said.

MGM Mirage, which reported $13.5 billion in debt as of the end of last year, also has been considering selling casinos and other assets to shore up its balance sheet as it works toward finishing the $8.7 billion CityCenter complex on the Las Vegas Strip. CityCenter is a 50-50 partnership with Dubai World, the investment arm of the Arab emirate. Dubai World also has shares in MGM Mirage as a company.

Harrah’s, which said it ended 2008 with $23 billion in long-term debt, recently exchanged $5.5 billion of it for about $3.5 billion in cash and new notes at higher interest rates.

The company, which has struggled with its debt since it went private in January 2008, said it tendered about 64 percent of its eligible debt with the offer.

Shares of Wynn rose $1.15, or 3.8 percent, on Tuesday to close at $31.59. Shares of Las Vegas Sands rose 39 cents, or 8.4 percent, to close at $5.03. And shares of MGM Mirage rose 38 cents, or 7.6 percent, to close at $5.40.

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