Macau Casino Stocks Rally as Some Travel Restrictions Ease

Posted on: August 24, 2021, 10:57h. 

Last updated on: August 24, 2021, 03:13h.

Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) are among the Macau operators seeing previously moribund shares surge Tuesday. That’s after the special administrative region (SAR) said some travel controls prompted by a recent outbreak of the coronavirus on mainland China will ease.

macau stocks
Visitors mull in front of Wynn Palace in Macau, above. Recently, Macau casino stocks are soaring on the news of eased travel curbs. (Image: CNBC)

Macau officials announced that travelers arriving from Guangdong — the mainland province closest to the casino hub — will be required to present a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test that’s seven days old or less.

That’s down from the prior requirement of a test that’s 48 hours old. The other requirement accompanying the negative test is that would-be Macau visitors cannot have traveled to Hong Kong, Taiwan, or any other foreign country prior to arriving in the gaming center.

A spokesperson for Macau’s Public Security Police, Lei Tak Fai, said the relaxed testing protocol goes into effect on Wednesday.

Guangdong accounts for approximately 45 percent of the annual visits to the SAR, and Macau casino stocks are responding to the good news. In midday trading, LVS and Wynn are both up more than five percent, while Melco Resorts & Entertainment (NASDAQ:MLCO) is higher by more than 10 percent.

Finally, Relief for Macau Casino Stocks

News of looser travel rules couldn’t arrive at a better time for Macau concessionaires, many of which are among the worst-performing major gaming equities.

Entering today, shares of LVS were off 33.34 percent year-to-date, and the operator of five Macau integrated resorts was one of just a handful of S&P 500 members that hadn’t posted positive returns since the March 23, 2020 market bottom. Shares of Wynn, which controls Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace, were lower by 17.64 percent this year prior to today.

Those moves come less than a week after Macau casino stocks slumped to five-year lows, as analysts fretted that a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases on mainland China would stymie August visitation to the SAR.

However, declining case counts and a brighter outlook for travel rules are having palpable impacts on weekly gross gaming revenue (GGR) data, and that’s a positive for operators. For the week of Aug. 16-Aug. 22, Macau GGR surged 55 percent from the previous week, according to research firm Bernstein.

Maybe Brighter Days Ahead

When the coronavirus pandemic initially emerged last year, analysts speculated that Macau operators would rebound more rapidly than US-centric rivals. But the opposite is proving true. While the pace of recovery in the world’s dominant casino center is confounding executives and investors alike, Macau gaming equities could see brighter days over the near term if authorities further loosen travel controls.

We expect the situation to Macau to start getting back to April/May levels in October,” said Bernstein analysts. “We expect GGR improvement beginning in the fourth quarter. But more significant travel impediment removals are not likely until next year.”

Should that scenario play out, it’d be a boon for the likes of Sands and Wynn, which derive anywhere from two-thirds up to 80 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) from Macau in a standard operating environment.