Wynn Resorts Shares Jump, Other Casinos Rally

Shares of Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) rose as much as 11 percent Wednesday and other casino operators also rallied as investors bet on continued growth in Las Vegas, analysts said.

"Some of the Las Vegas-centric names may have bottomed out," said William Schmitt, an analyst at CIBC World Markets.

Wynn shares gained $3.10 to close at $49.95 on Nasdaq after rising as high as $51.77 earlier in the session. Shares of neighboring Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) rose $1.13, or 3.1 percent, to close at $37.39 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).

Shares of the world's largest casino operator, MGM Mirage (MGG), rose 6 cents to close at $38.15 after rising as high as $39.10, while the industry No. 2, Harrah's Entertainment Inc. (HET), rose 23 cents to close at $72.04 after reaching a new 52-week high of $73.82 earlier in the day.

J.P. Morgan analyst Harry Curtis said in a report Wednesday that a survey found planned August room rates in Las Vegas are up 8.1 percent from a year earlier.

He said the results have positive implications for third-quarter earnings at MGM Mirage, Harrah's and Wynn, and strong convention demand early in 2006 could drive the stocks higher for the next year.

"A lot of managements are making the rounds out there ... people are still talking up Vegas and Macau," said David Barteld, an analyst at Wells Fargo.

MGM Mirage said it launched construction on Wednesday at a joint venture 600-room project in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau that will open in the second half of 2007.

Las Vegas-based MGM put the total cost of the Macau resort at $975 million.

Casino stocks have been weak since early May, when several analysts downgraded the sector, citing a sharp run-up in valuation levels on the heels of double-digit earnings gains tied to record consumer spending in Las Vegas.

In the last couple of years, casino operators have expanded operations, seen a boom centered in Las Vegas, and begun paying dividends, rewarding investors who appreciated growth and cash-spinning prospects of a sector that still funds most of its expansion through junk-rated debt.

On Tuesday, J.P. Morgan's Curtis repeated an "overweight" rating on Wynn shares, citing overblown concerns about earnings at Wynn Las Vegas and flattening growth in Macau.

"Maybe investors are realizing that the performance of the property (Wynn Las Vegas) isn't as bad as people originally believed," said Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone.

Wynn opened its first Las Vegas casino at the end of April and plans to open a project in Macau next year.

"Recent skepticism has created a very attractive opportunity for investors with a two to three year horizon," Curtis said in a report.