When companies report earnings, it's one of the few times each year we get to hear directly from management how a company is doing. In the case of Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), it's a chance to hear from Steve Wynn, one of the most iconic figures in the industry.
After the third-quarter earnings announcement, Steve Wynn gave us some insights into how the business is doing currently, and where it's going in the future.
Las Vegas is a strength for Wynn Resorts
With regard to Las Vegas, we were very happy with this quarter. It's a continuation of what we have seen in the past. All of our metrics have improved for the previous -- for the running 12 months, I think our EBITDA was $520 million, and if we can hold on during the fourth quarter, we ought to be able to get to the five [hundred million] I hope in the calendar year this year. -- CEO Steve Wynn
It's strange how the strength of a company can shift from quarter to quarter. Macau has long been the driver of results at Wynn Resorts and really dominated the company's income statement. But this quarter, Las Vegas was the highlight with a 9% increase in revenue and a 25% increase in EBITDA compared to -5.6% and -1.1%, respectively, in Macau.
The reality is that Las Vegas is still a stalwart of Wynn Resorts' portfolio -- and will be for years to come. Macau is still where there's more opportunity for growth but don't forget about Las Vegas when you look at this stock.
Rewarding shareholders with higher dividends
We did increase if you have noticed, we have increased our regular dividend effective immediately to $1.50 a quarter. We want to stay very conservative, as you know we have tremendous focus on our balance sheet, and we could have made our special dividend a dollar and elected instead to increase the regular dividend by another dollar a year. -- CEO Steve Wynn
One of the transformations in gaming over the past few years has been the increase in dividends to shareholders. That's because Macau's casinos are generating so much cash that companies have excess funds over what they need for operations and even expansion.
Wynn Resorts has normally paid a regular and special dividend but it has decided to up the regular dividend to $1.50 per quarter for a 3.2% yield instead. That's higher than the yield on 10-year treasury bonds and should attract an even wider investment audience.
Wynn Palace will cater to Wynn's best customers... who smoke
We're going to put all of our premium VIP business of every description on the water, every one of which, every chamber, every room from one end of the building to the other will be on the water, looking at the fountains and water show. And every one of them will have bathrooms, food and smoking balconies, and our entire hotel has got balconies all around the lake on all of the VIP and mass rooms. This is going to turn out to be a windfall kind of event because folks are going to be able gamble and step outside 8 or 10 feet, look at the water and if they've got a yen and to continue to smoke, they will be able to do so outside. -- CEO Steve Wynn
One of the biggest ways Wynn Resorts differentiates itself from competitors is through its resort designs. Walk through Wynn Las Vegas, and you'll find a simple and elegant experience compared to the confusing maze of walkways and canals in The Venetian and Palazzo next door. But the resorts are also designed to maximize profit per square foot.
Wynn hopes to bring that same design prowess to Cotai with Wynn Palace, and one feature he designed in years ago is paying off in ways he couldn't have anticipated. The premium VIP gaming rooms were put on the manmade lake that will be at the front of the property and includes balconies for players to use. This has become important because Macau recently restricted smoking to designated areas, which can be far from gaming tables. In Wynn Palace, a high roller can gamble, walk a few feet away to smoke, and get a beautiful view at the same time. Steve Wynn thinks this will draw a few more gamblers to the resort, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's right.
The hotel itself is the show
We have decentralized entertainment in each of the restaurants and of course in the front yard and in other places in the hotel, the lobbies, the entrances, they are all animated, animated expensive entertainment attractions. We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on entertainment in this facility so that literally the hotel itself is the show. -- CEO Steve Wynn
Another one of the design features in Wynn Palace is the entertainment attractions integrated into the hotel itself. Even restaurants will have entertainment built into the experience, which Steve Wynn says is nothing like we've ever seen.
Time will tell exactly what this will look like, but Wynn does have a long history of advancing entertainment in mega-resorts. Wynn Palace will be the next phase of his vision.
On schedule for early 2016 grand opening
We begin to get the spaces turned over to us for stocking the kitchens and cleaning, preparing all the rooms, housekeeping is on the job and then we turned the place in late December and in January into campus, and it is our practice to first take the staff and give them the building for themselves for a couple of weeks to practice in which we bring down all the systems, we go to all of our backups. We have all of our employees stay in the rooms. We test everything over and over again because we have a very strong opinion that you only have one chance at a grand opening to make that that wonderful initial impression. -- CEO Steve Wynn
This quarter, we got a small peak into what Wynn Palace will look like, but when will it be open?
According to Wynn, the resort is still on track to be open for the Chinese New Year in 2016, which is in early February. Part of the process will be training staff for full operations. That's expected to begin late next year with staff taking over the hotel, staying in rooms, and testing all of the systems.
It's key that Wynn Resorts hits these targets, because Chinese New Year is a windfall for Macau, and a new resort would be a huge draw for visitors. Keep an eye on updates about the project in coming quarters.