HBOS played leading role in £11.5bn loans to US gambling industry

Simon Goodley, 15 October 2010 

HBOS, the lender now subsumed into partially state-owned Lloyds Banking Group, played a major role in loaning $18.4bn (£11.5bn) to the struggling US casino industry during the height of the credit boom.


The level of the bank’s involvement in the US gaming sector has emerged after it made a loss of more than $500m last week on loans it provided to M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas – the second massive financial hit Lloyds has taken in America in as many months. Loans to casino groups accounted for 35% of the value of all US deals on which HBOS acted as an agent between 2004 and 2007, according to data held by financial information group Thomson Reuters.


It is not clear how much HBOS lent to US casinos in total, although it will be only part of the $18bn as most of the loans would have involved a syndicate of banks. However, in 2004 and 2005, the US division of HBOS was one of the main banks in a syndicate arranging loans of $1bn and $2bn to Station Casinos, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year, as well as the bank being involved in a 2007 loan of $430m to Aliante Gaming, a Station subsidiary.


Furthermore, in 2004, HBOS was also among the banks leading a $680m loan to casino operator Aztar Corporation. Aztar’s owner, Tropicana Entertainment, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008. Other HBOS casino customers during the period included MGM Mirage, Wynn Las Vegas and Penn National Gaming.


Lloyds declined to comment on specific deals but it is understood that its US casino portfolio has been passed to the bank’s “business support unit” – where the lender is reducing its exposure through sales, restructurings and writedowns. Lloyds has previously said that impairments on group loans have peaked and are starting to fall.


The frequency of HBOS’s dealings with US gambling reveals how it entered the financial crisis with large bets placed on Las Vegas, the centre of the country’s casino industry, which proved to be one of the American cities hit hardest by the credit crunch.


Las Vegas‘s ongoing troubles were again illustrated this week when MGM Resorts reported third-quarter figures in which casino revenue declined by 9%, slot machine revenue was 3% lower and revenue per available room on the Las Vegas Strip decreased by 2%. Michelle Chang, an equities analyst at Morningstar in Chicago, said: “We believe these figures reflect continued struggles in the Las Vegas market, as the region is dealing with excess capacity while an economic recovery is still in the early stages.”


Last week, Penn National Gaming paid $230.5m for about $860m owed to HBOS, which included $700m the bank loaned to M Resort plus another $160m loan that HBOS had acquired from MGM Resorts at an undisclosed price. The deal gave Penn a Las Vegas casino for a fraction of what it cost to build the 390-room resort.


The debt sale came two months after it emerged that HBOS was set to lose “tens of millions of pounds” from dealings with another US client, Sea Island, the exclusive Georgia holiday retreat that filed for bankruptcy in August.


Lloyds is understood to have already written down the value of the M Resort loans and does not expect to make further material downgrades on its US casino portfolio. Lloyds has been winding down or selling HBOS-owned assets ever since acquiring Britain’s largest mortgage lender. The acquisition, which was encouraged by the UK government, helped Lloyds book losses of £6.3bn last year.


The mounting US losses at the bank are thought to have been incurred in the division previously run by Colin Matthew, a former HBOS board member whose responsibilities included the international business. He retired when HBOS was acquired by Lloyds TSB in January 2009 with a pension entitlement of £416,000 a year, having been paid £652,000 in 2008.


Source:The Guardian


Comments are closed.