Major US developer struggling with international projects seeks funding from stocks

A major US developer with a number of prominent international projects is halting, delaying and cutting back because of the financial squeeze.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. confirmed it is trying to raise money to fulfill its commitments. There is concern about it being able to complete the prestigious $4.9 billion casino project at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore which also includes hotels, a convention centre, entertainment facilities and retail outlets.

'We are worried that the developer and operator will delay completion at best or could end up unable to fulfill the contract. There are alarm bells all over the place,' said a senior official in Singapore.

Las Vegas Sands, while confirming it is seeking $2.1 billion to complete and open the project, said it is committed to doing so and will halt or delay other projects to do so.

Stephen Weaver, Sands president for Asia, said the company could lay off about 10,000 workers in China's gambling enclave. He said it would temporarily shut down two major construction projects along Macau's Cotai Strip, including a Shangri-La/Traders hotel tower, a Sheraton hotel tower and three casinos.

However the company said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last week that it was in danger of not meeting obligations to its lenders on a $3.8 billion portion of its debt unless it raises capital, cuts spending on developments or increases its Las Vegas earnings by year end.

It hopes to raise $2.1 billion in a stock offering, with Chairman and Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson personally pumping $525 million into the share purchase. The company said the stock offering, assuming it closes, will allow it to finish and open the Singapore project as planned.

The Singapore Tourism Board, which oversees the Marina Bay Sands Casino development, said it was preparing for the worst. A spokesman said it had various options under its agreement with Sands, including to step in 'and resume possession of the land… and any other structure on the land, and deal with them as STB sees fit' if the project closes down or if it enters receivership.

Singapore government officials are making contingency plans if the financing falls through. 'The bottom line here is that if LVS can't finish this, someone else will,' said Song Seng Wun, economist with financial-services firm CIMB Group.