Usually a Contrarian Investor, Kerkorian Takes Aim at Bellagio, City Center Instead

In recent years billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian and his investment company Tracinda Corp. have been focused on potential value in beaten down automobile companies like General Motors (GM) and Chrysler. However, despite a huge upward revaluation in Las Vegas properties during that time, evidently he still sees value in that area.

Monday we learned that Kerkorian is interested in acquiring the Bellagio hotel and casino as well as a new development project, City Center, which is set to open in 2009. Kerkorian is the majority owner of MGM Mirage (MGM) with a 56% stake in the gaming giant, worth about $10 billion before his intentions were made public. MGM shares rallied 10 points in after-hours trading Monday to $73 per share on the idea that Tracinda might wind up taking MGM private at some point down the line.

The announcement is interesting given Kerkorian’s recent foray into domestic car companies at very depressed prices. MGM Mirage is not a cheap stock (about 12 times 2006 cash flow) but has many growth opportunities ahead, both in Vegas and abroad in Macau. Such a move indicates that he is not worried about a severe economic slowdown, which would almost certainly adversely impact the boom in Las Vegas and Macau that has been very strong during the current worldwide economic expansion. With Kerkorian still willing to buy at these levels, he must think those predicting doom and gloom on the economic front aren’t likely to be vindicated anytime soon.

Full Disclosure: No position in MGM Mirage (unfortunately) or any other company mentioned at the time of writing