Macau Casino Shares Up as Analysts Cheer Re-Licensing Report

(Bloomberg) — Casino stocks rose in both New York and Hong Kong trading after authorities in Macau released favorable results from public hearings on the renewal of casino licenses in the world’s largest gambling market.

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A Bloomberg gauge of casino operators rose as much as 4.8% on Friday, the most since Dec. 7. Shares of Sands China Ltd. and Wynn Macau Ltd. both climbed by more than 6% in Hong Kong when trading started before paring gains.

This followed jumps in their related U.S. company stocks listed in New York on Thursday. Wynn Resorts Ltd., Las Vegas Sands Corp. and MGM Resorts International were up by as much as 5.4%, 6.4% and 3% respectively. Shares of the three Chinese operators, Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd., Galaxy Entertainment Group and SJM Holdings Ltd. also advanced.

The public comment period, which ran from Sept. 15 to Oct. 29, produced opinions largely as expected, with the respondents mostly OK with the current arrangements, according to a Thursday summary of the findings by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

Most participants said the current number of six casino licensees was a good number while the length of their concessions should be less than 20 years, Bernstein analyst Vitaly Umansky wrote.

The report boosts the likelihood that the current operators will get their concessions renewed by the June 2022 expiration of the current licenses without a major rewriting of the terms.

“We still believe the government is wholly set on finalizing the new concessions prior the June expirations,” Umansky said. “We do not view anything in the report that raises issues.”

Commentators agreed that capital commitments in the region should be increased, as well as local ownership and management. They also supported a government representative in the casinos, one of the proposals Macau authorities have said they were considering.

The majority of respondents disagreed, however, that the government should have control over dividends paid by the casino operators to shareholders.

Not Final

The report is just a summary of public opinions and doesn’t represent a final decision by local authorities, Umansky wrote.

Macau opened its casino market to foreign investment two decades ago, and the region has since exploded in popularity. The business has been impacted recently by restrictions on travel due to the global pandemic. Still, the market is viewed as lucrative one long term.

“We continue to believe that the market would likely accept a reasonable reduction of concession term (to 10 years, similar to that of Singapore),” Citigroup Inc. analyst George Choi wrote in a note Thursday.

(Updates with Friday market moves in 10th paragraph.)

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