Tuesday saw casino stocks on the Hong Kong stock exchange (HKEx) fall to levels unseen in years, and the sneeze seems to have even given some NYSE stocks a cold, or at least kept them from shaking it.
Sands China stocks lost over 9% of their value while MGM China was running close to that and Wynn Macau posted losses of nearly 6%. All three stocks’ US counterparts maintained their recent slides.
Although not quicksand, the market has been mushy at best with five consecutive quarters of declining revenue in Macau. Most analysts do not agree on the timing or prospects for recovery and anticipated tailwinds have not come to pass. Beijing’s continued attack on the VIP market, tumbles in the mainland Chinese stock market, and overall lack of hitting growth targets are crippling mass market disposable income and crafting a consumer mindset of austerity over opulence. Conditions that may have been seen as minor hiccups in the past have sent shivers through the weakened financial backbone. Uncertainty over a universal smoking ban is not the least of them.
One catalyst for yesterday’s numbers seems to be the announcement by junket operator Neptune Group Ltd., after posting massive year on year losses in a Friday HKEx filing, that they would consider pulling out of the business and focus on other metrics if no upturn comes into sight. This news as island leader Galaxy Macau puts a positive spin on creating new and re-purposing former VIP rolling chip venues into premium gaming areas for cash players, expecting to skirt the current smoking ban rules and replace business lost by other junket operators pulling out for greener pastures.
Adding to the dismal outlook were forecasts that Macau’s biggest ‘holiday’ period after Chinese New Year, Golden Week, would not spark significant if temporary growth for the gaming industry. Executive director for SJM Holdings, Angela Leong On-kei tempered her position on that with hopes that dining, retail sales and convention business might see an increase in mainland tourist business.
Multiple factors, including the Chinese stock market’s 40% slide over the last ten weeks – which is affecting more than casino stocks in the US and Australia – have contributed to hobbling the massive economic engine that is Macau. The economy-crafters in Beijing may have been clandestinely trying to squeeze US operators out of Macau with their junket crackdown, but with the rest of their economy in serious trouble, that tiger’s tail may be slipping from their hands.