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Macau Reports Most Painful Revenue Drop Since 2005

Nov 05, 2014 - by Monica Erdei
Macau is in big trouble

Macau is in big trouble

Macau has had a few rough months during and after the World Cup in Brazil, but its streak of bad luck reached its peak in October.

When June reports showed a 3.7% year-on-year drop, industry experts blamed it on the World Cup sports betting craze and said things would pick up. Then revenues came in at just $3.6 billion in July, showing a 3.6% drop from the same period last year and they said Macau needs a bit more time to get back on track.

But as Chinese authorities continue their crackdown on casino corruption, an initiative which scared away a number of VIP customers, things have gotten serious. In October, total casino revenue fell by 23.2% in October compared to the same month of 2013.

The city’s gaming authority said total revenue was at 28 billion Macau patacas ($3.5 billion) this October, marking Macau’s worst financial performance since the gambling hub started recording such data in 2005.

Despite its recent downward trend, Macau continues to be the world’s largest gambling centre, way ahead of Las Vegas. The bad news is that the region relies heavily on casino revenue –mostly on the money spent by high-rollers – which seems to be on the decline. Moreover, it’s the only area where China allows casinos, a type of entertainment otherwise forbidden under the country’s gambling laws.

Reuters: Macau Oct gaming revenues fall 23 pct, drop worst on record

October was the worst month for Macau’s casinos and the fifth consecutive month of declines. Industry representatives blame it on China’s passive war on corruption, as well as on a decline in the number of tourists and a general slowing of economic growth, which makes people spend less on gambling.

“It is worse in October than it was before October,” Steve Wynn, chief executive of Wynn Macau, told a recent earnings call. “I don’t know if it is a squall or if we are in the rainy season, or how long it will last, but we are still very bullish on Macau.”

The American casino developer has started construction on another Macau project – a $4 billion integrated resort, which includes a lake and air-conditioned gondolas.

According to online gambling news, about 80% of Macau’s revenues rely on gambling, but China’s two-year anti-corruption battle has taken its toll on the local casino industry. Big spenders are now avoiding the area and choosing other destinations where they can freely spend their money. Profits from VIP customers accounted for just 56% of total revenues in the third quarter, which was a new low for Macau.

Las Vegas Sands chief Sheldon Adelson said these trends are cyclical. “It is only a matter of time before the cycle reverses itself. No one has ever suggested that the behavior of Chinese and Asian people, which has been established over a 3,000-year history, is going to change.”

Wall Street Journal: Macau Gambling-Revenue Drop Divides Investors

Making smart investments in casino stocks used to be pretty simple. Investors would just choose those companies that had bigger exposure in Macau, knowing that those were the names with the best prospects. Things have changed now that Macau has had its fifth straight month of revenue declines.

Hong Kong-based Central Asset Investments portfolio manager Armand Yeung said: “We were short. Now we’re just staying away from it.” Though valuations have become more reasonable and dividend yields are attractive, “there’s still a lot of debate”, he added.

When an analyst casino magnate Steve Wynn if he thought things were getting worse in Macau, he replied: “Oh, well, that’s an easy question. It’s worse in October than it was before October. So if you’re asking what is the nadir of our experience, it is current.”

Wynn added that Beijing’s efforts to combat corruption in Macau “has put a lot of the wealthy businessmen in the fox holes.”

Credit analysts are expressing concerns about Macau expansion plans, claiming that casinos will not be able to repay their debts if the slowdown in revenue continues.

Forbes: Macau Casino Revenue Falls, VIPs Blamed, Investors Rejoice

Figures released by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau showed a 3.7% decline in year-on-year revenue in June, with profits dropping to 27.2 billion Macau patacas or $3.4 billion. Industry representatives claim it was caused by a 20% drop in VIP attendance.

This was the first time when Macau’s monthly revenue fell since June 2009, which marked a low point for the city’s casino sector. Union Gaming Research Macau analysts Grant Govertsen and Felicity Chiang pointed out that from the decline in 2009, “Macau went on an unprecedented run [with] tripling of GGR from approximately US$15 billion in 2009 to US$45 billion in 2013.”

Between 2008 and 2009, Macau’s problem was mainly a matter of politics, with an overlay of economic factors. It could be the same this time around, as the 20% drop in VIP revenue is believed to be caused by President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign in China.

On the other hand, a report released by Morgan Stanley Asia in June cited economic factors from the mainland, while others blamed it on the World Cup, which Union Gaming conceded “could be responsible for a few hundred basis points of the VIP decline.”

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