March 22, 2010 / 8:57 PM / in 9 years

Las Vegas Sands shares up after analyst boosts price target

* Macau growth forecast raised

* Sands, MGM Mirage, Wynn shares up

ATLANTA/CHICAGO, March 22 (Reuters) - Shares of Las Vegas Sands (LVS.N) shot up 10 percent on Monday after Sanford Bernstein raised its price target on the casino operator, citing potential upside from growth in Macau and Singapore.

“We see more EBITDA growth on the horizon from assets that have already been financed and a much less risky balance sheet,” Bernstein analyst Janet Brashear said in a note to clients.

Brashear raised her price target on Sands by $2 to $24. She also revised its Macau growth forecast for this year to 30 percent from 15 percent and cited more upside potential than downside risk for Singapore, where Sands is planning to open a $5.5 billion casino resort next month.

Rivals Wynn Resorts (WYNN.O) and MGM Mirage (MGM.N) ended up more than 6 percent in regular trade. So far this year, Las Vegas Sands has risen about 43 percent, MGM Mirage is up 38 percent and Wynn has gained 31 percent.

Sands and Wynn already have operations in Macau and MGM Mirage plans a public offering of its Macau joint venture.

“All the casino stocks are hot today,” said Joe Kunkle, a founder of Web information site

“We are expecting to see the Macau gaming numbers to come out in early April and all indications are that the numbers will be strong,” Kunkle added.

MGM call volume is double the normal levels with buyers in the April $13 calls as investors await an official bid for its Borgata casino stake, Kunkle said.

Las Vegas Sands option volume is impressive and is twice the normal level with about 104,000 calls or almost twice the number of put options traded by late afternoon, said option strategist Frederic Ruffy.

The most active contracts are the April call options allowing investors to buy Las Vegas Sands at $20, $21 and $22.50 apiece. Some investors are apparently betting that the casino operator can continue its winning streak in the weeks ahead, Ruffy said. April options expire in 25 days.

Sands shares rose 10 percent to $21.43, while Wynn was up 6.7 percent to $76.54 and MGM Mirage jumped 6.6 percent to $12.52.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs and Doris Frankel; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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