Thanks to some new analysis from Standards & Poors, we have more insight and more visibility into how SBE Entertainment plans to fund their SLS Las Vegas project. That funding may come from a little known US Government program where foreign nationals may invest in US businesses in exchange for immigration status.
The program, known as EB-5 (or an EB-5 visa) was originally instituted by Congress in 1990 and since then has been renewed several times, including by President Obama in September 2012. The program allows foreign investors willing to invest (typically $1,000,000 but as little as $500,000 in some areas, including Vegas for SLS) the opportunity to secure Green Cards, not only for themselves for also for their immediate family members. It's a fast track for preferred immigration status based on investments that are designed to employ Americans. A reward for invested capital from the United States of America. This type of investment has been used for casino concepts in the past.
In the case of SLS, Standards & Poors estimates that their EB-5 money, if it comes through, will make up the majority of the $115 million in junior investment that they need to raise in order to unlock the $300 million that is already comitted by the primary lenders. The good news for SBE is that these types of investors typically only get about 5% interest, lower than what borrowers would have to pay on the open market for a junior note against a project that S&P has determined is 'highly leveraged' and has 'average' liquidity, as they have with SLS Las Vegas.
Cheaper money means that SLS, currently scheduled to open in 2014, will have an easier time making their numbers in those crucial first 8 quarters of operation. Actually, S&P has so baked these advantages into their analysis that they state in their report that a failure of this funding coming through could cause a downgrade - the rates SBE would likely have to pay in traditional markets would be higher and less forgiving.
So, now we wait.
The $300 million currently in escrow goes back to the lenders if SBE/SLS cannot raise the $115MM over the course of the next three months.