Japanese brokerage Nomura says it expects 2016 to be a year of stabilisation for the Macau gaming industry, “with stocks range-trading and dividends being the key bright spot”. The brokerage however said the recent Macau share price rebound looks “very similar” to those seen last year but not supported by changes in industry fundamentals.
“Some investors may see the recent rebound (+24 percent) as an opportunity to take profit as this looks very similar to the sector-wide rebounds in July (+29 percent) and October (+35 percent) last year, when the market rallied on potential policy support and benefits from new openings, while we see little change in industry fundamentals,” said analysts Richard Huang and Stella Xing.
Casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) reached MOP18.67 billion (US$2.33 billion) in January, down by 21.4 percent year-on-year, according to official data released on Monday. Several investment analysts expect that after 20 consecutive months of year-on-year declines in casino GGR, February could be the first month of GGR growth since May 2014, although the negative year-on-year trends should return in March.
In Wednesday’s note, the Nomura team said the current share rebound and those in July and October last year “have all been supported by the market’s expectation of further loosening measures”.
Beijing’s senior representative in Macau, Li Gang, said in comments at a public event last week that China would initiate measures to support Macau if it sees a “huge fall” in visitor arrivals to the city in 2016. Mr Li heads the Central People’s Government Liaison Office in Macau.
In a note on Monday, Deutsche Bank AG said it “highly doubts” whether mainland China government policies in support of Macau will result in a sustained uptick in casino revenue. The bank said it sees “Macau’s problem as a structural demand issue which policies cannot fix”.
Nomura said in its most recent note that the market is also starting to price in the potential benefits of the three new major casino openings slated for the second half of 2016 – the Wynn Palace, the Parisian Macao and MGM Cotai. That is “despite sustained headwinds to demand and looming risk of project delays,” added Mr Huang and Ms Xing.
Macau-based gaming operator Wynn Macau Ltd last week made public a letter it had sent to its Wynn Palace construction contractor spelling out financial penalties were the contractor to miss agreed construction milestones ahead of the planned June 25 opening. The opening has already been delayed three months from the original opening deadline of March 25.
While there was “very little improvement in industry gaming revenues” in 2015 following the opening of two new properties, the Japanese brokerage said it still expected 2016 “to be a year of stabilisation” for the Macau gaming industry.
The city’s casino gaming industry is showing signs of recovery following a two-year downturn, said on Wednesday the chief executive of MGM China Holdings Ltd, Grant Bowie.
“I’m also optimistic that we will see some positive signs and we are already doing so particularly in the mass business over the last three to six months,” Mr Bowie said at an event, quoted by public broadcaster TDM.
“I think that we can see moderate growth without predicting a percentage, but I think we just need to be very positive,” he added.
Mr Bowie additionally told reporters that Macau’s gaming industry is “transitioning out of being primarily VIP business into the mass market.” MGM China’s CEO said that a total of three VIP rooms at casino hotel MGM Macau had closed last year.
Several analysts and industry insiders expect junkets to continue facing a tough business environment in 2016. The number of licensed junket operators in Macau shrank by 23 percent in the 12 months to January, according to official data.
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Alex Poon and Praveen Choudhary
Analysts at Morgan Stanley