Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Shares Languish on Gloomy Macau VIP Outlook

Posted on: October 3, 2019, 12:03h. 

Last updated on: October 3, 2019, 03:01h.

In late trading Thursday, the S&P 500 was in the green after two rough days to start October. But shares of Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) and Wynn Resorts Ltd. (NASDAQ:WYNN) were slumping.

Macau news and other headline risk stung some casino stocks on Thursday. (Image: Nikkei Asian Review)

A Wall Street Journal article out this morning highlighting an ominous outlook for Macau’s VIP market could be one culprit behind today’s weakness in some major US gaming equities. Combined, LVS and Wynn operate seven of the integrated resorts in the Special Administrative Region (SAR).

High rollers make up nearly half of Macau’s gambling revenue, and they have been placing fewer bets in the city as China’s economy weakens,” reports the Journal. “VIP revenue in the first half fell 14% from a year ago, compared with a 10% full-year rise in 2018.”

Wynn Resorts is highly levered to Macau and the high-end gamblers the Chinese territory attracts. Last month, the operator of Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace said it expects operating revenue of $1.01 billion to $1.12 billion for the two months ended Aug. 31, down from $1.15 billion a year earlier.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the gaming company said third-quarter Macau revenue and adjusted property earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) “will be negatively impacted by significantly lower VIP gaming turnover,” among other factors.

In the second quarter, Macau represented about 70 percent of Wynn’s revenue and 63 percent of turnover for LVS.

Holes In The Mass Market, Too

Some analysts have recently defended shares of Sands, which joined the S&P 500 earlier today. Prevailing sentiment on Wall Street is that LVS, which runs five Macau casinos, is dominant in the mass market and less dependent on VIPs than Wynn.

Still, LVS was lower by about 0.80% in late trading, roughly the same loss sported by rival Wynn. The Journal sees cracks emerging in the mass market thesis.

“Revenue from casual gamblers could also start to weaken, despite being relatively resilient in early 2019,” according to the article. “Visitor numbers to Macau are still growing—up 6.5% in August from a year earlier—but that compares with double-digit growth in the first seven months of 2019.”

More Headline Risk

Some of the retrenchment in Wynn stock today could also be attributable to the potential for mounting legal risk. In a lawsuit revealed earlier this week, nine unidentified women claim founder and former CEO Steve Wynn urged them not to speak with the media about his alleged sexual misconduct.

Last week, counsel for Brenna Schrader, a massage therapist at Wynn Las Vegas, unveiled a class action suit naming Wynn Resorts, Steve Wynn and former Wynn Las Vegas President Maurice Wooden as defendants.

Schrader accuses the former CEO of a decade’s worth of sexual harassment and mistreatment of female employees, and that the company was complicit in covering up those misdeeds.

Shares of MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM), which has Macau exposure through the MGM Macau and MGM Cotai, bucked the negative price action seen in rival gaming stocks. It posted a modest gain even after the company announced a settlement of up to $800 million with victims of the October 1, 2017, mass shooting at Mandalay Bay that left 58 dead and 851 people injured.