LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas Sands Corp. drew a record number of gamblers in Macau in the first quarter and took in more money from its Singapore casinos, helping lift net income by 15 percent to top expectations.
The company run by billionaire Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson reported Wednesday that it continues to win big in China, luring 14 million visits to its Macau properties in the first three months of the year. Macau is the world's largest gambling market, and the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.
The casino giant gets most of its revenue from the territory, known both for its high-roller gamblers and a growing base of middle-class Chinese visitors. Competitor Wynn Resorts Ltd. reported a modest gain in first three months of the year, also helped by Macau gambling profits, while Caesars Entertainment, which doesn't have Chinese operations, reported a loss.
Adelson, who was the first to open a major Las Vegas-Style casino in Macau, touted his ability to predict profitability during a conference call with analysts.
"I'm the blind squirrel who found (the nut). But I can see ahead on my vision. I can see it through the fog and the snow," he said.
Adelson said he's "cracking the whip" to get the newest addition to his collection of Macau hotel-casinos, The Parisian, completed by mid-2015.
"We're not looking at 'always a delay, always a delay,' like we've had in the past," he said. "Every month we don't open is the fruits of an investment we're losing."
Sands also operates The Venetian and the Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip, the Sands Bethlehem in Pennsylvania and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The company said revenue from its Las Vegas operations rose 7 percent to $411.5 million, helped by double-digit gains in spending on food and drinks and retail.
Sands earned a total of $572 million, or 69 cents per share, up from $498.9 million, or 61 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, Sands made 71 cents per share — topping analysts' estimate of 67 cents. Revenue also beat expectations, rising 20 percent to $3.30 billion, a quarterly record for Sands. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting Sands to report $3.27 billion in revenue.
The company will pay a quarterly dividend of 35 cents per share at the end of June. Adelson said that Sands "has every intention of increasing the dividend," and is considering other ways to return capital to shareholders, such as a special dividend and stock buybacks.
Shares rose 54 cents after hours, having closed flat at $56.25 before the report. Earlier in the week, shares fell slightly on the news that the company was parting ways with its longtime independent auditor. Sands said Wednesday that it expects to be able to announce a new auditor within the next month.
Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier .