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Jump in mainland visitors boosts price of gaming stocks

Investors push up prices of casino shares after 36pc more mainland visitors holiday in Macau

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 5:20am

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Macau gaming stocks typically rebound as the Lunar New Year approaches, in expectation of mainland visitors flocking to the city's casinos over the holiday period.

This year, visitor arrivals did not disappoint, and share prices duly went up.

On Wednesday, 114,500 mainland visitors were estimated to have arrived in Macau, according to data from the government's tourist office, up 36 per cent from last year.

The numbers are expected to continue rising for the rest of the week.

"We would not be surprised if Thursday's visitor arrivals are even higher," said Grant Goversten, a gaming analyst with Union Gaming Advisors.

Encouraged by the prospect of a surge in gaming revenues after the increased number of visitors, investors pushed the shares of casino operators higher yesterday.

Sands China ended the day up 2.16 per cent, Wynn Macau rose 2.22 per cent, Galaxy Entertainment gained 2.98 per cent, and Melco Crown Entertainment climbed 5.65 per cent.

Melco Crown hit an intraday high of HK$55 and closed at HK$54.25. A week ago, it closed at HK$50.70.

The resurgence of prices in the sector comes after a slump in gaming stocks in the past few weeks. Nine days ago, shares fell by 5 to 6 per cent on speculation about a government crackdown on junket operators.

After the reports, however, Beijing's liaison officials in Macau indicated that no policy changes were on the horizon.

If there were to be a crackdown, a report by Union Gaming Research said, it would be the result of a consolidation of political power by Xi Jinping to penalise "disfavoured" junkets and encourage customers to shift towards "favoured" junkets.

The share price of NagaCorp, which runs an integrated gaming-entertainment-hotel complex in Cambodia, bucked the general trend for gaming stocks to close 1.33 per cent lower yesterday.

The share price did not fall as a result of fears over earnings, Goversten said. "NagaCorp is favoured for the long term and has one of the best growth profiles of all Asian gaming stocks," he said.

In its annual report for last year, released last week, NagaCorp reported net profit of US$113.1 million, up 23 per cent from 2011.

NagaCorp's junkets and VIP revenues increased 16.9 per cent as it vied for a bigger share of the VIP segment, which is expected to be a more meaningful contributor to earnings this year and beyond.

NagaWorld, the parent company of NagaCorp, added five luxury gaming suites last month, with two more targeted to open later this year to cater for VIP players.

 

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