Sands China Unlikely to Pay Dividends Until 2024, Asserts Analyst

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In February 2020, Sands China shareholders were given $0.127 per share they held in the form of a dividend. For that, the Las Vegas Sands-led company shelled out $1.03 billion. That was the last time dividends were paid and, according to Sanford C. Bernstein’s lead analyst for Asia, shareholders shouldn’t expect another one anytime soon. Vitaly Umansky believes it could take two more years before the Macau casino operator is ready to pay dividends again.

Sands China Dividends on Hold

A Wednesday note from Bernstein’s Umansky suggests that business conditions for restarting dividend payment by Sands China may only be possible in 2024. He explained that the firm would need to reduce the ratio between net debt and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) to 2019 levels.

The gaming rights for Sands China in Macau will expire on June 26 this year. According to investment analysts, they anticipate that the Macau government will permit the brand to remain on the market. It, along with the other five licensed casino operators, are expected to retain their concessions.

Umansky wrote that Sands China should return to better than 2019 EBITDA next year in Macau, leading to as much as $3.3 billion in revenue. Subsequently, the company will grow Macau EBITDA to more than $4.1 billion by 2025.

Sanford Bernstein wrote Wednesday that Sands China and related entities had invested $14.5 billion in Macau. The brokerage emphasized that the company controls around 30% of the activity in the city.

Required Spending Takes Precedence

Sands China also controls half of Singapore’s casino duopoly through the Marina Bay Sands. Marina Bay Sands, according to Umansky, was the “single most profitable casino asset globally in 2019 and generated the highest EBITDA both in [U.S.] dollars and margin and can revert to those levels over the next two years as Singapore travel resumes.”

He added that Marina Bay Sands’ casino gross gambling revenue would “fully recover to 2019 level by 2024.

Las Vegas Sands, in conjunction with the extension to its duopoly rights to 2030, made a promise to the Singapore government that it would spend $3.3 billion on the expansion of Marina Bay Sands.

Separately the management is completing a $1-billion renovation of the property’s existing hotel space. This should be completed over two phases in 2022-2023.

Vitaly added in his note that dividends could be paid next year, as long as Singapore and Macau live up to expectations and show a strong and rapid recovery.

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