MGM Mirage Covers CityCenter Debts

NEW YORK (AP) - Casino company MGM Mirage Inc. said Friday it has paid $70 million toward construction of the massive CityCenter project on the Las Vegas Strip, covering its own half of the payment plus $35 million owed by its equal partner, Dubai World.

MGM Mirage reached an agreement with its lenders on Monday that allowed the casino operator to cover Dubai World's share and delay paying until Friday.

The $8.7 billion project is scheduled to start opening later this year.

The two partners - Dubai World, the Arab state of Dubai's development arm, and MGM Mirage - have another payment of more than $200 million due within two weeks.

The news barely softened Friday's drop in MGM Mirage shares, which tumbled after a media report Thursday evening that billionaire investor Carl Icahn wants the casino operator to file for bankruptcy protection.

MGM Mirage is struggling with a sharp drop in consumers' spending on gambling and a debt load of more than $13 billion. The company lost $855 million in 2008.

MGM Mirage shares had fallen 63 cents, or 10.7 percent, to $5.27 by afternoon. The stock has traded between $1.81 and $53.67 during the past 52 weeks.

Citing unnamed sources, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday that Icahn and private-equity fund Oaktree Capital Management are pushing the company to restructure its debt as soon as possible.

The newspaper said Icahn - an activist force on Wall Street for more than four decades - and Oaktree and have recently bought hundreds of millions of dollars in MGM Mirage debt.

"We continue to have very constructive conversations with our lending group," MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said Friday. He declined to comment further about the bankruptcy speculation.

An Oaktree representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Dubai World sued MGM Mirage last month, saying the casino company's statements about its own financial health put CityCenter at risk. Dubai World said it was particularly concerned about comments in MGM Mirage's annual report warning that it could default on its debt and be forced to seek bankruptcy court protection.

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