Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, chairman and chief executive of casino operator Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, says Macau’s casino sector could start showing recovery signs in “mid-to-late March”. He forecasts that “sometime in the second quarter” the market might start displaying “some normalisation”.
Mr Ho made the comments during the group’s conference call on Thursday to discuss fourth-quarter earnings. “We remain optimistic on the recovery in Macau and continue to expect increased visitation in the near-term,” he said.
Melco Resorts’ boss took an upbeat tone throughout the call with investment analysts, namely regarding a potential recovery of Macau’s gaming market starting over the next few months.
“For the first time in nearly 12 months, we see a lot more positives than negatives,” he said. “Our current expectation is that we will begin to see the benefits of pent-up demand starting in mid-to-late March.”
The executive added: “So, hopefully sometime in the second quarter, maybe end of second quarter, we’ll see some normalisation.”
Mr Ho said that contributing to his forecast was the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic remained under control both in Macau and mainland China, with vaccination against the disease already underway in both jurisdictions, as well as in Hong Kong, another important source of gamblers to Macau’s casinos. He also pointed out that business trends following the Chinese New Year holiday period in February remained positive.
In Macau, Melco Resorts operates three properties: City of Dreams, Altira Macau and Studio City.
During the conference call, Mr Ho announced that Melco Resorts planned to open the “fully renovated Nuwa” hotel at the end of March. The property is located at the City of Dreams complex in Macau and is targeted at the premium mass and mass segments of the market. It had previously been scheduled to open this month.
In addition, Melco Resorts has plans to revamp the Countdown hotel, also located at City of Dreams Macau. The move, to take place “in the near- to medium-term,” will see the venue converted into an all-suite, five-star product, said Mr Ho. The launch of the revamped property is targeted for 2023, he added.
In Macau, the firm is also working on the expansion of Studio City. Mr Ho told analysts that Melco Resorts remained committed to moving ahead with phase two of that property.
“For Studio City Phase 2, we haven’t slowed down at all,” he said. “We do think that around the end of 2022, beginning of 2023, the market would have been fully recovered… So, we think that’s a great timing to open a new property.”
During the conference call, Mr Ho said Melco Resorts remained engaged in becoming a casino operator in Japan, as the country moves forward with legalisation of casino gaming.
“While the process in Japan has been delayed and remains complex, it has renewed momentum as jurisdictions are again initiating request-for-concept processes,” he stated.
He added: “We remain convinced that Japan represents the best potential new gaming market globally. At the same time, we remain patient and will maintain our disciplined approach with respect to all development activities including Japan.”
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