Friday, April 23, 2021
 
Columnist
Martin Hennecke

Macau gaming revenues surge 135pc, end 17-month drought
 
02/03/2021
 
Gambling revenue in Macau surged 135 percent in February, the first growth for 17 months but missing expectations, with casino operators still seeing a lukewarm recovery as the pandemic continues to make travel difficult for gamblers. In February last year, casinos shut down for 15 days as Covid-19 began to sweep across the globe. Gross gaming revenue rose to 7.31 billion patacas (HK$7.1 billion) last month, according to data from the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. That was worse than the median analyst estimate for a 145 percent jump. Revenue fell 8.9 percent from the previous month, and is still down 71 percent from the February 2019 level, before the pandemic hit. Macau is still trying to lure mainland China gamblers who are discouraged by a tightened visa application process and virus tests required for crossing the border. The Lunar New Year holiday - one of the strongest weeks for casinos - was marred by an outbreak in northern China. Arrivals declined 65 percent from last year's holiday week as Chinese officials urged citizens to stay home. The situation should improve as Macau has gradually been easing quarantine rules on travelers from parts of China that saw winter outbreaks. The rollout of vaccines across Asia may also help the recovery, while the February opening of Sands China's (1928) Londoner property could draw in visitors. The Bloomberg Intelligence index of Macau casino operators jumped 22 percent in February amid investor optimism over the sector. The benchmark Hang Seng Index gained 2.5 percent in the same period. Casino stocks surged the most in three months last Tuesday after the China quarantine rules were lifted. "Easing quarantine policy between mainland China and Macau could provide a ground for foot traffic improvement for Macau casinos," said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Angela Hanlee. "We now need to watch how the mainland's policy toward overseas gambling is in March as it does not want Macau to become an infrastructure facilitating that." Shares of Macau casino operators generally rose yesterday. Melco International Development (0200) was the best performer in the sector, whose shares jumped 5.23 percent. Other players from Wynn Macau (1128) to Sands China grew by around 1 percent to 2.3 percent. However, MGM China (2282) dropped by 5.2 percent to HK$13.12, the only stock ending lower. The company posted a net loss of HK$5.2 billion for 2020 last Friday, as compared to a net profit of HK$1.9 billion a year ago.

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