Photographer: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images

Asian Casino Operator Pays Price for U.K. Voters’ Brexit Gamble

  • Companies with pound income ‘may see some pressure,’ says MNRB
  • Genting among 10 with biggest U.K. exposure in Asia Pacific

Genting Malaysia Bhd., among the Asian companies most exposed to the U.K., is finding some investors aren’t prepared to take a chance on its foray into the country’s gaming market after the surprise vote to leave the European Union.

Run by Southeast Asia’s biggest casino group, shares in Genting Malaysia slumped about 3.6 percent since the June 23 Brexit referendum while the nation’s benchmark index gained 0.7 percent. Its parent’s ringgit bonds due 2027 yielded 145 basis points more than the sovereign, up from 128 before Brexit and 1.7 times their one-year average. With 43 casinos in the U.K., Genting Malaysia ranks among the 10 Asia-Pacific companies most at risk to Britain’s economic slowdown, Bloomberg data show.

Tata Motors Ltd., which makes Range Rover cars, and some companies linked to Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing are among the biggest losers as their stocks and dollar-based debentures fell after the vote. The historic referendum pushed investors into safe havens, with the amount of sovereign and investment-grade corporate bonds paying zero-to-negative yields doubling to $10.3 trillion by July 11, according to Bloomberg indexes.

“Companies exposed to the pound in their earnings may see some pressure,” said Wan Murezani Wan Mohamad, head of research at MNRB Holdings Bhd., a Kuala Lumpur-based reinsurer with 7 billion ringgit of assets. “The risk to earnings skews to the downside.”

Pound Debasement

Katherine Chew, Genting Malaysia’s spokeswoman in Kuala Lumpur, declined to comment on the Brexit impact.

The pound has weakened about 11 percent to near a three-decade low against the dollar since the vote, the worst performance among the world’s major currencies, with more losses predicted. Nomura Holdings Inc. sees a 1 percent drop in earnings per share for Genting Malaysia in 2016 for every 10 percent slide in the pound-ringgit rate, a June 27 report shows.

Genting Malaysia entered the U.K. market in October 2010 with the purchase of 46 casinos from a sister company Genting Singapore Plc for 351.5 million pounds, including the Crockfords, Colony Club, Maxims and London Mint brands.

More recently, the six casinos in London and 37 in the regions helped contribute 24 percent of the group revenue in the quarter ended March 31, up from 16.4 percent in 2015, according to its financial reports.

“We see a dual negative impact from the results of the Brexit vote," Nomura wrote in the report on Genting Malaysia. "A weaker economic climate will likely result in slower business volumes, and will be further hurt by a weaker pound to ringgit translation.”

BOE Policy

With U.K. politics in disarray, the Bank of England has stepped in to boost liquidity and will hold its first post-Brexit interest-rate decision on July 14. Gauges of consumer sentiment and business confidence are plummeting.

Morgan Stanley recommended on June 29 that investors avoid dollar-based notes from Asian corporates which have more than 15 percent of revenue tied to the U.K. and Europe’s developed economies. Brexit would trigger a downturn, if not an outright recession, in the U.K. and Europe, the U.S. bank said.

“Genting Malaysia’s exposure to the U.K. is more concentrated” than regional peers, said Danny Wong Teck Meng, chief executive officer in Kuala Lumpur at Areca Capital Sdn., which manages 700 million ringgit of assets. “There will be some indirect impact arising from Brexit, but it’s not a huge concern for now for the U.K. casinos. Slower business volume would add more pressure in the longer term.”

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