China’s State Administration for Foreign Exchange – also known as SAFE – has reportedly announced new annual limits on automated teller machine (ATM) cash withdrawals made outside mainland China using the China UnionPay Ltd electronic transfer system. The news was given by Chinese media outlets.
According to the reports, with effect from January 1, 2016, each UnionPay-enabled card will have a new, annual, cash withdrawal limit at overseas ATMs of RMB100,000 (US$15,714). Prior to that, with effect from October 1, 2015 until December 31, 2015 there will be a RMB50,000-per-card ATM cash withdrawal limit, it was additionally reported.
These limits are on top of the existing policy which sets daily withdrawal limits at RMB10,000 per card.
UBS Securities Asia Ltd said in a note issued on Tuesday that it expected “no material direct impact” on the Macau gambling market, as “withdrawing cash from ATMs is not a major source of cash for most gamblers”.
“This is due to the existing daily [ATM] limit…, [the] high transaction fee, and the existence of other methods to obtain cash for gambling in Macau,” wrote analysts Anthony Wong and Angus Chan.
But they added the measures reportedly announced by the mainland authorities were likely to cause “sentiment overhang” among Chinese consumers on UnionPay card use in general.
The institution estimated “at least 30 percent” of mainland mass-market players’ cash for gambling in Macau comes from purchasing goods through UnionPay at pawnshops and then immediately returning the goods for a cash refund.
The UBS analysts noted: “There is currently no mention of any new measures on the usage of UnionPay cards to purchase goods [or] for consumption overseas.”
Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd in Hong Kong said in a note on Tuesday: “The new policy is an indication that China is concerned about capital outflow.”
“The new policy is an incremental headwind to Macau GGR [gross gaming revenue], in particular premium mass,” wrote the institution’s analysts Vitaly Umansky, Simon Zhang and Bo Wen, referring to a segment of players valuable to the casino operators, and that place cash bets at minimums significantly above the ‘grind mass’ players.
“Most premium mass customers utilise UnionPay cards (among other means) to access cash for play in Macau casinos. While many customers have multiple UnionPay cards, larger premium mass customers may find their access to cash more limited as a result of the new limits,” the brokerage added.
Referring to the purchase refund system used by some Macau players to get access to cash, the Sanford Bernstein team stated: “The pawnshop transactions are legal in Macau and occur through approximately 200 shops. However, there is risk that Chinese authorities may pressure Macau into creating tighter regulations around pawnshops.”
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