Las Vegas Sands, the world's No.2 casino operator by market capitalization, said it could complete all its planned five projects on Macau's Cotai strip within five years, hugely expanding its presence in the world's biggest gambling market.
The bullish forecast, characteristic of Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson, took some analysts by surprise, as shares in Sands China, the company's Macau unit, fell 4.1 percent.
The firm -- which raised $2.5 billion from the listing of its Macau unit, Sands China, in late November -- plans to build five properties on the Cotai strip, a swathe of reclaimed land some Macau developers have touted as the next Las Vegas strip.
Those properties, including two that are halfway through construction, would complement two existing casinos in Macau, one of which is the Venetian Macau, the world's largest casino.
We could finish all the properties easily within five years, Adelson said in an interview on CNBC. We could have a total of 14 brands.
But Aaron Fischer, CLSA's head of Asian consumer and gaming, said he was surprised by Adelson's bullish forecast.
It's quite aggressive, he said. Five years is a bit earlier than I thought, but it's a good thing.
BULLISH ON COTAI
Sands has said it expects to open phase one of the two halfway-completed projects, sites five and six, on the Cotai strip in June 2011. The firm was forced to suspend construction of the projects, which are estimated to cost about $2.6 billion, due to the global financial crisis.
The firm also plans to develop three more parcels of land on the Cotai strip.
Sands has said it expects its Cotai strip developments to contain over 20,000 hotel rooms, over 1.6 million square feet of meetings and convention space, and over 2 million square feet of retail malls, upon completion.
Sands competes in Macau with Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment Group, SJM Holdings, Melco Crown Entertainment and MGM Mirage.
Separately, Adelson said the firm's $5.5 billion Singapore casino resort, which was originally set to open by the end of this year but later got pushed to end-March 2010, could open around the new timeframe.
We are on track till the end of March, he said. However, we have some rain delays... If we are a little late, it'll be weeks, not months.
The Singapore project, the Marina Bay Sands, which was originally expected to cost around $3.2 billion, has also suffered massive cost overruns.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee in HONGKONG and Kevin Lim in SINGAPORE; Editing by Chris Lewis and Valerie Lee)