Casino Tycoon Adelson Sees Signs of Macau Gaming Turnaround

Updated on
  • Mass-market monthly revenue rises for first time since 2014
  • ‘Something good happened in June,’ says Sands’ Goldstein

Las Vegas Sands Rises: Is a Macau Turnaround Underway?

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson said he’s optimistic recreational gamblers and tourists are spurring a recovery in Macau’s hard-hit casinos industry, as Las Vegas Sands Corp. reported mass-market gaming revenue in the Chinese city rose in June for the first time in two years.

The comments by the company’s founder helped spark a rally in casino stocks in the U.S. and Asia. Shares of Las Vegas Sands climbed 4.1 percent to $49.75 at 9:31 a.m. in New York, while its Sands China Ltd. unit rose 6 percent in Hong Kong trading, the most in four months. Wynn Resorts Ltd., Wynn Macau Ltd. and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. also gained.

Casino stocks have rallied in the past only to retreat after a turnaround to Macau’s two-year gambling downturn seemed elusive. The latest sign of a recovery comes as the former Portuguese enclave is in the midst of a casinos building boom, with the $4.1 billion Wynn Palace scheduled to open Aug. 22 while Sands China’s $2.7 billion Parisian project is slated to open Sept. 13.

Sands China posted second-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization Tuesday that fell 14 percent to $487.7 million, missing analysts estimates. While weak revenue from high rollers hurt profit, mass-market revenue recorded the first month of growth since September 2014, according to the parent company.

“It is difficult to say whether this is the bottom for Macau given the fact that the VIP segment is quite volatile and cyclical by nature,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Margaret Huang. A recovery for the industry “may not be apparent until after the third quarter when comparisons ease” and new casino resorts open for business, she said.

“Stabilization appears to be here,” Adelson, who is also chairman of Sands China, said on a call with investors. “We’re very happy that there’s one month that hit the bottom and we have no reason to believe that that’s not going to continue.”

Sands is the largest casino operator in Macau, the only part of China where casino gambling is legal. Betting there has been in a two-year slump amid a Chinese government crackdown on corruption that has prompted high rollers to cut back on conspicuous consumption. The market is showing signs of recovery, with the overall drop in betting moderating and visitor traffic on the upswing.

“Something good happened in June,” Rob Goldstein, Sands’ president, said on the call. “The gaming floors are busy, especially on weekends. Macau is morphing into the world’s greatest mass market. Hopefully we’ll see it for the rest of the summer.”

Parent company Sands, the world’s largest casino operator, earned 52 cents a share in the second quarter, excluding some items, according to a statement Monday. Analysts had expected 56 cents, the average of 14 estimates compiled by Bloomberg shows. Sales fell 9.3 percent to $2.65 billion, missing estimates of $2.75 billion.

  • Sands China’s mass-oriented flagship Venetian adjusted property Ebitda fell 4.2 percent from a year earlier.
  • Ebitda in Singapore fell 1.7 percent to $357 million.

“Sands China’s product offering is one of the best positioned to capitalize on Macau’s paradigm shift,” to focus on recreational gamblers, wrote Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analysts lead by Vitaly Umansky in a note Tuesday.

Umansky rated the stock as outperform, citing its portfolio of hotel, retail and conference facilities as “key drivers” in continuing to attract recreational gamblers and tourists, according to the analyst. The Parisian’s opening is a “key inflection point” that gives it a competitive advantage with nearly 12,700 hotel rooms, he wrote.

The positioning of the Parisian “caters well to both the current Macau market conditions and the long-term growth trends in Chinese outbound tourism,” Adelson said.

— With assistance by Rob Golum, and John Lear

(Updates with U.S. trading in second paragraph.)
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