Las Vegas Economic Snapshot - Feb 09
Gaming revenue down, casino debt climbing
Jefferies & Company, an investment bank and securities firm, said Las Vegas casino operators like Hooters, Fontainebleau, Black Gaming, Cosmopolitan and Herbst (owners of the Terribles chain) are at a higher risk for defaulting on loans. Harrah’s and Station Casinos are at an even higher risk, Jefferies & Company says.
Leverage in every Nevada gaming market is the highest it has been in 17 years, the firm said in its Friday report.
Jefferies & Company reported in the Nevada fiscal year, average Strip casino net debt jumped from $391 million in 2007 to $773.4 million in 2008. Average Las Vegas Downtown casino debt rose to $92.9 million from $6.7 million in 2007. Jefferies & Company said debt significantly rose related to the building of CityCenter, Encore, Cosmopolitan, Fontainebleau and privatization of Harrah’s.
Station Casinos Near Default
Station Casinos Inc., whose Las Vegas-area properties include Red Rock Casino and the two-month old Aliante Station, may be on the brink of default, making its private-equity owners a casualty of the largest recorded decline in gambling revenue.
Colony Capital LLC, the Los Angeles private-equity firm that took Station private with the casino company’s founding family in 2007, added more than $2 billion of loans and bonds to Station’s books to complete the $8.8 billion deal. The extra leverage puts Station at risk of breaking terms of bank debt, said Peggy Holloway, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service.
“From a liquidity perspective, they are on the brink of bankruptcy,” New York-based Holloway said in an interview. “It depends on their ability to negotiate with lenders and willingness to amend the debt.”
MGM Mirage Considers Property Sale to Compensate Economic Crisis
The current economic crisis has left many of the Vegas giants in a pinch and with the delay in development for MGM and their $5 million dollar MGM Grand Atlantic City gaming resort, the company has started to look at unloading some of their properties. This includes the possibility of selling off 14 acres of waterfront land, next to the Trump Casino in Atlantic City.
In an attempt to strengthen their finances the company is going through the final stages of selling the Treasure Island Casino to a Las Vegas mogul by the name of Phil Ruffin. Although the $775 million from this sale will definitely help MGM Mirage out during this economic crisis it still leaves the company vulnerable to a declining economy.
The $5 million dollar expansion which was placed on hold earlier this year is also a consideration for liquidating property.
“We would hope in the future to be able to carry those out,” MGM spokesman Gordon Absher said of plans for transforming the property into a casino complex. “However, given the economic situation, were we to receive an offer, we would be obligated to consider it, just like we did with Treasure Island.”
“We, as a corporation, are looking to sell noncore assets. Noncore assets would be typically some of the large real estate holdings our company has,” Absher said. “We are best known for our world-famous resort brands. But what is less known is that we are the largest landholder on the Las Vegas Strip and also have strategic holdings elsewhere, including Atlantic City.”
Taxable sales fall across Las Vegas, state
The latest analysis from the Nevada Department of Taxation reveals widespread sales contractions for businesses, though the report also contained a few bright spots.
Gains in taxable sales among construction companies, book and hobby shops, food and beverage stores and accommodations failed to offset steep drops in economic activity inside Nevada's restaurants, furniture stores, car dealerships and clothing boutiques.
Merchants statewide rang up nearly $3.4 billion in taxable sales in November. That's a 10.9 percent decline from the $3.8 billion they transacted in November 2007. In Clark County, taxable sales came to $2.5 billion, down 11.3 percent compared with $2.8 billion in November 2007.
Under consideration: Tax brothels, consider legalizing prostitution in Las Vegas
In these tough budgetary times, the chairman of a key state Senate committee is willing to consider the world’s oldest profession as a potential source of new tax revenue.
State Sen. Bob Coffin said Tuesday he would be willing to grant a hearing on proposals to legalize and regulate prostitution in Las Vegas and other urban areas of the state where it’s illegal.
The Las Vegas Democrat, who heads the Senate Taxation Committee, said he also wants to look at taxing the state’s legal brothels in rural counties.
Only “the most naive person on the planet would believe there’s no prostitution going on in the urban areas,” Coffin said. “It’s going on now unregulated and unsafe.
“I have not decided about whether or not I’d support the legalization and control of it in urban areas. But I think it’s an idea worth entertaining.”
Prostitution is legal in most of Nevada’s rural counties, but state law prohibits it in counties with populations in excess of 400,000. That means there are no legal brothels in Las Vegas or Reno.
Most every plaza has an ‘anchor,’ or a large store that draws traffic to smaller ones nearby. Across the city, shopkeepers are feeling the drag of big closures
Applied Analysis, the local market research firm, says 17 anchor stores around the valley are closed. CB Richard Ellis estimates that more than 30 anchors in excess of 20,000 square feet are empty.
“We haven’t witnessed this level of retail closures in our history,” says Brian Gordon, a principal at Applied Analysis.
And it’s only going to worsen.
Circuit City plans to close its stores nationwide in March, including four here. On Feb. 4, The Great Indoors, a home decor outlet under the Sears umbrella, will close a handful of its locations nationwide, including its Las Vegas store. Other closures include Linens N Things, Wickes furniture, Sports Authority, Levitz and Mervyns.
Two more Albertsons are closing in February, as well as four Lucky grocery stores. An Albertsons spokeswoman attributed the closings to stores not meeting their sales goals.
Paco Underhill of the international market research firm Envirosell predicts a 20 percent vacancy rate among all retail stores nationwide, and potentially higher in Las Vegas. And some analysts worry that contractual codependency, where one store’s departure allows others in a marketplace to leave, could deepen the crisis.
Foreclosures dominate home sales
Real estate values around the nation have collapsed, and sales of foreclosed and "underwater" homes now dominate many housing markets, according to a report released Tuesday.
In the United States, 17.6% of all homes are now underwater, according to Zillow, as are 41.2% of all mortgages for homes bought in the past five years.
The worst-hit cities are in the once-booming Sun Belt. In Las Vegas, 61.4% of all homes are underwater.
Because so many homes are worth less than their mortgage balances, an increasing number have to be sold short. But short sale transactions can take a long time to complete, because lenders have been having trouble keeping up with the flood of requests.
The percentage of homes sold for less than what their owners originally paid has leaped up in the past couple of years. In the United States as a whole, 34.6% of the sales made in 2008 were done at a loss. In Merced, 71.6% of all sales last year were for less than the seller paid.
Stockton, Modesto and Las Vegas all had in excess of 68% of all homes being sold at a loss.
Foreclosures beget more foreclosures by adding inventory to the market, which depresses prices, which increases foreclosures, according to Humphries.
Total decline in LV median home price could top 50 percent
How much further will Las Vegas home prices fall?
It’s the pressing question on the minds of homeowners, concerned about the property value they are losing, and of potential buyers, who are waiting on the sidelines before they purchase.
Moody’s Economy.com projects the total decline in the market will reach 52 percent by the end of the first quarter of 2010, says Mike Helmar, director of industry services and an economist who oversees Nevada forecasts.
“We don’t have much good news for you,” Helmar says. “We do have them continuing to go down.”
Many of you already know that I think it will be even worse: LV Homes for $60 a SF
Painful unemployment numbers plague Las Vegas
The highest unemployment figures in over a quarter century (> 9%) have state officials struggling to find some light among the gloom.
LV employers expected to cut 35,700 more jobs in 2009
The local economy will shed nearly 4 percent of its work force in 2009, a nationwide group of public officials predicts.
Local job loss will center on the construction and tourism sectors, said Jim Diffley, managing director of IHS Global Insight's regional services division. Beyond those two pillars of the economy, broad losses should visit most industries and fields, because scarce credit will hamper growth, Diffley said.
If Las Vegas lost 3.9 percent of its current jobs base, the city's unemployment rate would jump to around 11.5 percent, said Jeremy Aguero, a principal in local research firm Applied Analysis.
A local jobless rate approaching 12 percent is "not out of the realm of possibility," Aguero said.
State leaders pray for the best
The opening day of the 75th meeting of the Nevada Legislature featured bagpipes, lengthy prayers, elegant orations and baroque floral arrangements, like a celebration of the dead.
Though it wasn’t a funeral exactly, a more somber than usual mood prevailed, and it was a little hard not to think of Nevada’s last rites.
The Legislature convened its 120-day, every-other-year session amid the worst statewide economy since the early 1980s — 9 percent unemployment, nearly 9 percent of homes in Las Vegas facing foreclosure filings and a budget deficit of $2.3 billion.
So perhaps it was a bit understandable that there was such a focus on prayer Monday, as legislators hoped for a theological cash infusion in the form of a federal stimulus bill, or maybe gold on the grounds of the capitol.
That's where we're at folks... The Las Vegas Economy is hanging by a thread and our leaders are praying for a miracle. As someone stated in the discussion forum of the link above (rephrased by me): Prayer!.. Prayer??? We are WELL past the need for prayer. We're at the point where several Human Sacrifices are required to 'fix' the economic mess we're in.