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Macau gaming revenues shatter last year's record

2 Dec 2011

By Howard Stutz
MACAU -- Eleven months are in the books for 2011 and Macau's casino industry has collected more than $30.5 billion in gaming revenues, blowing past the region's total for 2010, which was itself a record haul.

Actually, Macau's 34 casinos surpassed last year's $23.5 billion mark during the third quarter.

Investors have shifted their focus toward 2012. They have preliminary expectations of what's in store for the world's largest gaming market in the coming months.

"We believe (Macau) remains well positioned heading into the new year, as media reports suggesting a tightening in Chinese lending standards and slowdown in gaming-related consumer spending continue to prove unfounded in monthly gross gaming revenue results," Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets gaming analyst Steven Wieczynski told investors Thursday in a research report.

Macau's casino industry collected $2.88 billion in gaming revenues during November, a 33 percent increase over the same month a year ago.

According to figures released by the Chinese Special Administrative Region's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, total gaming revenues through November are up 44 percent compared to the first 11 months of 2010.

Analysts said Macau's November figures were fueled by high-end customer play. The revenues declined 14 percent compared to October, which is considered the strongest month of the year.

"We continue to feel positive about the overall health of the VIP- and mass-gaming segments, and believe subsequent months of solid year over year gross gaming revenue growth should continue to improve investor sentiment and put to rest junket liquidity concerns," JP Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff wrote in a research note.

Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Resorts International are the only U.S. casino companies operating resorts in Macau. Next year, Las Vegas Sands is scheduled to open the initial phases of Sands Cotai Central, which includes multiple hotel-casinos and 5,800 rooms.

Analysts are projecting the 2012 gaming revenue growth in Macau at 15 percent to 25 percent.

Recent results from Macau and the prospects for next year have heightened investor attention among U.S. casino operators, particularly Las Vegas Sands, which operates three Macau casinos. Preliminary market share statistics through November show Las Vegas Sands with the second-largest percentage of the gambling market.

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said Las Vegas Sands has maintained a large stake in mass-market play, making its casinos less dependent on the junket business and high-end gamblers.

"Over the past one to three months, all U.S.-traded gaming names with Asian exposure have underperformed the S&P, with Las Vegas Sands performing the best during these time periods," Beynon told investors. "With both the loosening monetary policy in China and the higher than expected Macau November gaming, we expect the near-term outlook and investor sentiment on these names to improve."

Macau opened one new casino this year, the Galaxy Macau on the Cotai Strip in May. Analysts said the market absorbed the property quickly. Sands Cotai Central could be last new casino opening in Macau until 2015.

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