As if Sheldon Adelson needed any more enemies, it appears now that the Stanley Ho, the majority owner and leader of Macau market leader SJM, has thrown down a challenge. Last month, Ho’s company expressed an interest in parcels 7 and 8, the final two undeveloped lots in the Las Vegas Sands Cotai Strip development.
The genesis of the interest is reportedly comments made by new Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui soon after taking office. Chui said it is possible that previously committed sites may be withdrawn from companies that do no develop them.
Last month, SJM CEO Ambrose So told the Wall Street Journal that the company had sent a letter to the government expressing interest in the remaining LV Sands sites. But the Department of Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT), which controls the sites, denies that it ever received such a letter.
“DSSOPT has not received any letter from SJM expressing interest in Cotai sites 7 and 8,” the agency contended, adding that the LV Sands application to purchase the plots is advancing.
“The application is making its way through our normal procedures,” the agency said.
SJM has no presence at this time on the Cotai Strip, even though it controls almost one-third of the market in Macau. While it has one site, it is not a prime location. In a report issued on the Hong Kong stock exchange in connection with its public company, SJM said that it had “applied for land concessions for two parcels of land on Cotai, and entered into discussions regarding potential cooperation with owners of a site adjacent to one of these parcels.” Because the dormant Studio City site is fits that description, some analysts made the connection, but SJM may also be talking about the Wynn Resorts property, which is also nearby.
SJM is anxious to get a location on the Cotai Strip since most of its competitors have a presence both there and on the Peninsula, where all SJM operations are centered.
“Everybody’s going there,” said So.
Michael Leven, the president and COO of Las Vegas Sands, actually welcomes SJM to Cotai, just not on LV Sands land.
“The more people on Cotai the better it is as far as vision we have for the Cotai Strip, but we have invested considerable money on 7 and 8,” he said.