Macau Casino Growth Beats Analyst Estimates on Promotions

Macau casino revenue rose 20 percent to a record last month, beating analyst estimates, as Christmas promotions drew more holiday-makers to the world’s biggest gambling hub.

Casino revenue in the Chinese city jumped to 28.2 billion patacas ($3.5 billion) in December, trumping the previous record of 27.7 billion patacas in October, according to data from Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau today. The growth compares with the 17.5 percent median estimate of four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News, helping drive Sands China Ltd. shares to a record high in Hong Kong.

“This is definitely better than our expectation, and much higher than the street estimates,” Jeremy Tan, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Kim Eng Securities HK Ltd. said by phone, “It’s a combination of higher holiday footfall, higher win-rate, and a return to VIP market,” he said.

Sands China, the Hong Kong-listed unit of billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas company, rose 5.3 percent to HK$35.75, the highest close since its November 2009 debut.

Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. also jumped 3.1 percent to HK$31.30, the highest since at least October 1991, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The benchmark Hang Seng Index climbed 2.9 percent.

Full-year casino revenue in Macau increased 14 percent from 2011 to 304 billion patacas, also a record, according to the Gaming Bureau.

Higher Earnings

Gambling revenue is climbing as operators including Sands China, Galaxy and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. expand in the only place in China where casinos are legal. Middle-class Chinese tourists have helped fuel growth even as high-stake bettors cut spending.

Galaxy, controlled by Hong Kong business tycoon Lui Che-woo, plans to invest as much as $6.5 billion to expand a resort on Macau’s Cotai strip and expects to begin construction at the end of this year or the beginning of 2014, the company said last month. The construction will cover about 10 million square feet (929,000 square meters), more than doubling the size of its existing resort.

Other operators including Wynn Macau Ltd., MGM China Holdings Ltd. and SJM Holdings Ltd. received approvals to build their first resorts on Cotai, a piece of reclaimed land that is Asia’s equivalent of the Las Vegas Strip.

Visitor arrivals in Macau rose 0.5 percent to 25.6 million in the first 11 months of 2012, with 60 percent coming from mainland China, the city’s Statistics and Census Service said.