Melco International Development Ltd, controlled by gaming entrepreneur Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, reported on Friday a net profit of HKD10.37 billion (US$1.33 billion) for full-year 2016. That compares to a net profit of HKD100.9 million in the prior-year period, the company said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
The company said the strong profit growth came as Macau’s gaming market started to show signs of recovery, and was due to a special gain as a result of having taken control of Asian casino developer Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd.
Melco International became Melco Crown’s single largest shareholder in May last year, as its Australian partner in the Asian casino operator – Crown Resorts Ltd – decided to reduce its stake. In February 2017, Melco International completed the purchase of an additional interest in Melco Crown from Crown Resorts, increasing Melco International’s ownership to 51.3 percent. The announcement that Melco International would take majority control of the business had been made in December.
For full-year 2016, Melco International reported net revenue of HKD23.9 billion, up more than 50-fold compared to HKD395.1 million in 2015. The company reported HKD21.79 billion in casino revenue in 2016, as Melco Crown reported stronger financial results.
Melco International recorded adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of HKD5.3 billion for 2016, up tenfold compared to HKD350.3 million in the previous year.
Melco International’s board recommended the payment of a final dividend of HKD0.02 per share, totalling approximately HKD30.9 million, for 2016. It is expected the proposed dividend will be paid on July 4, 2017, the firm said.
“After a long period of struggling through different challenges affecting the gaming industry in Macau, we have finally begun to see positive signs of recovery in gaming revenue during the third quarter of 2016,” said Lawrence Ho, group chairman and chief executive of Melco International, in a prepared statement. Mr Ho additionally said that the company has been “actively exploring opportunities in new markets, such as South Korea, Cyprus and Japan”.
Mr Ho and Melco International – or entities controlled or led by Mr Ho – have casino interests in Macau, in the Philippines, and in the Russian Far East. Melco International has also announced a strategic cooperation arrangement – via a subsidiary – to provide consultancy services for a casino project on Jeju Island, South Korea. The company is also part of a consortium that has entered the final stage of a process to obtain a 30-year licence for the operation of the new casino resort in Cyprus.
Melco International said that it is also making progress in its plan “to secure a gaming licence in Japan”. Mr Ho had said previously that he is feeling confident regarding his group’s intended bid for a Japan casino licence.
On Friday, Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd – a company controlled by Mr Ho, and which is also the lead developer of the Tigre de Cristal casino resort in the Russian Far East – said it swung to profit in 2016. It was the first full calendar year of operations of Tigre de Cristal.
The firm reported a net profit attributable to shareholders of HKD559,000 for the full year, as compared to a loss of HKD85.4 million in 2015.
The main contribution to the first-half results of Tigre de Cristal came from the casino’s rolling chip operation, which targets VIP customers from Northeast Asia, the firm said in a filing.
Summit Ascent said the casino’s rolling chip turnover rose from approximately HKD3.5 billion in the first six months of 2016 to about HKD10.6 billion in the second half of the year.
Oriental Regent Ltd, the operator of Tigre de Cristal and 60-percent owned by Summit Ascent, generated adjusted EBITDA of approximately HKD132 million for full-year 2016.
Brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd said it expects VIP volumes at Tigre de Cristal to “see continued strong growth” with the addition of a new Macau junket “over the next few months”.
“The property continues to ramp and will enjoy first-mover advantage for the balance of 2017 and all of 2018 – although we believe the addition of new supply (both Summit Ascent and competitive) will be a boon for the market not unlike what has been experienced in other regional markets like Manila,” said analyst Grant Govertsen in a note on Monday.
Summit Ascent said it is currently refining the design and construction requirements for the expansion of the property. It said it expects to open the first stage of Phase II for operations “in the second half of 2019”.
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"The initial expectation for the October Golden Week was that the Cotai casino resorts might see an average occupancy rate at 80 percent to 90 percent. But that rate now might stand at just 50 percent to 60 percent... following Macau’s news of the new Covid-19 infection cases”
Andy Wu Keng Kuong
President of the Macau Travel Industry Council