MGM opens its Cotai jewel

MGM Resorts opened its Cotai property on Feb. 13, with analysts cautiously optimistic about the prospects for the multi-coloured resort, whose design is meant to evoke a jewellry-box.

MGM Resorts opened its Cotai property on Feb. 13, with analysts cautiously optimistic about the prospects for the multi-coloured resort, whose design is meant to evoke a jewellry-box.

The delayed opening happened without some of the fanfare seen for other debuts over the past few years, though management has said casino floor traffic has been above expectations. On a recent conference call with analysts, executives said the property was already close to matching its sister resort on the Peninsula in terms of mass win per unit per day.

MGM Cotai will have just under 1,400 hotel rooms, meeting space, high end spa and retail outlets, as well as the usual array of bars and restaurants. It sees its unique selling point as being its high-tech auditorium. Its MGM Theater houses a 900-square-metre 4K LED screen, which is the world’s largest permanent indoor LED screen. It is the first dynamic theater in Asia with over 10 different configurations and 2,000 seats.

Sands gives dads a break

Sands China Ltd. is implementing a paid paternity leave policy for eligible team members as of Feb. 16, 2018. Dr. Wilfred Wong, president of Sands China Ltd., said: “The family is the cornerstone of our society. Sands China values team members’ well-being and work-life balance, and is committed to the implementation of ‘people-oriented’ policies and guidelines. We strive to address the needs of our team members, so we’re very pleased to announce this new paid paternity leave policy, acknowledging the important role of fathers in the family. With this new policy, fathers of newborns will have time to be with their families to enjoy this important milestone of life and to support them, helping maintain a harmonious family life.”

Gaming-related crime falls


Gaming-related crime cases dropped slightly in 2017, despite the gaming sector recording significant growth in the year. A total of 1,847 criminal proceedings related to gaming were initiated in 2017, a slight (0.2 percent) decrease from 1,851 in 2016. Gaming related crimes include loan-sharking and debt related kidnappings. “Most of the cases related to the mentioned two types of criminal activities happened inside casino premises, with no indications that the criminal activities have extended outside the properties and impacted on the security of Macau,” Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak was cited as saying.

“We did see non-gaming offerings at MGM Cotai that are differentiated from its peers,” Morningstar analyst Chelsea Tam said in a note.

A giant glass atrium, known as The Spectacle connects the main lobby through to restaurants and shops, with 25 LED walls displaying a variety of pictures.

“The collection of royal carpets from the Qing dynasty hanging on the wall in the high-end area does give a prestigious look and feel,” Tam said.  

The property is opening at a time gross gambling revenue in Macau is firmly back on an upward track, recording growth of 19.1 percent in 2017. According to projections from Fitch Ratings that growth will continue this year, notching up a gain of about 13 percent. The mass and premium mass market is expected to takeover from the VIP sector as the main market driver, with a key catalyst for growth being the expected opening of the bridge linking Hong Kong Macau and Zhuhai.

MGM Cotai expands the number of the group’s gaming tables in Macau by 29 percent and will eventually take up its room count by 238 percent. However, the table allocation was lower than had been expected and it launched with no junkets. It is expected to add about five junkets by June.

MGM China received an initial table grant of 125 gaming tables, with 100 of those available at the open and a further 25 to be deployed in 2019. It was lower than the 150-table allocation that analysts had expected and below the 150 granted to Wynn Resorts’ Wynn Palace and Las Vegas Sands Parisian.

The company is expected to transfer some tables over from MGM Macau later this year.  

In terms of ramp up, Tam said that MGM Cotai's ramp up speed should be "decent" as the adjacent opening of Wynn Palace in 2016 ramped up strongly.

Grant Govertsen, managing director and head of Asia gaming research at Union Gaming, said the ramp trajectory was currently under appreciated by the market.

“Talking to non-MGM industry insiders on the ground in Macau the feedback we received was quite positive as it relates to the property, it’s positioning, the gaming floor, the non-gaming elements, etc. All expect it to be very competitive, especially at the higher end of the market.”

Govertsen said he expects MGM China’s market share to rise to 9.5 percent from 7.1 percent in 2017 as the resort gets up to speed, a gain of 34 percent. By way of comparison, Wynn Macau’s market share as Wynn Palace ramped went from 10.1 percent to 16.5 percent.

Bernstein Research was less upbeat, predicting that any strong ramp up on Cotai may be at the expense of the company’s Peninsula property.

“We remain concerned about the company's ability to fully defend its position on the Peninsula after the Cotai opening and we are skeptical of a strong Cotai ramp up. The addition of 1,400 rooms and increased gaming capacity will inevitably give the company potentially outsized growth in the near term, but at the cost of US$3.4bn in bringing Cotai online,” analyst Vitaly Umansky said in a note.

“MGM's lack of experience in Cotai operation that will lead to similar slow ramp encountered by peers,” analyst Vitaly Umansky said in a note.  

SJM Holdings (880:HK) has 20 casinos on the Macau Peninsula. The company has been losing market share while it completes construction of its Cotai IR, which most analysts now expect to open in 2019.

Recently, the company’s Grand Lisboa Hotel was the title sponsor of a Dota 2 eSports tournament in December. It was the first international eSports competition held in Macau, with nine teams of contestants coming from around the world.

Galaxy Entertainment Group (27.HK) has three main properties and runs three City Club casinos inside hotels. The company’s Galaxy Macau Phase 2 and Broadway at Galaxy Macau opened on May 27, 2015, almost doubling the capacity of the resort. The property is viewed by analysts as one of the best placed in Macau, having made considerable efforts in recent years to boost its mass market appeal. Galaxy was recently chosen for inclusion in the Nikkei Asia300 Investable Index – a newly created index of Asia’s biggest and fastest-growing companies, which is designed to be used as an underlying index for financial products such as investment funds.

The Nikkei Asia300 Investable Index comprises 300 Asian listed companies, with constituents picked by Nikkei as companies to watch in Asia.  GEG is the index’s only Hong Kong listed gaming company and one of only 34 Hong Kong companies represented.

Sands China (1928:HK) has five properties in Macau. The new $3 billion The Parisian opened in September 2016 and is now a key driver of group results. It features a scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, nearly 13,000 hotel rooms, two million square feet of retail-mall offerings and two million square feet of MICE capacity. Sands China’s Q4 results beat analysts' expectations, driven by strong premium mass revenue in Macau, which gained 52 percent year-on-year, compared with a 7 percent gain in base mass, according to Union Gaming analysis. Total net revenues increased 12.9 percent to US$2.10 billion compared to US$1.86 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016 and above The Street estimate for $1.94 billion. Net income increased 49.1 percent to US$519 million, while hold-normalized EBITDA came in at $758 million, representing growth of 30 percent over the prior year. Bernstein Research noted the company is optimistic about further growth in the premium sector, which is being driven by more younger players coming from provinces outside Guangdong and higher average spend per customer.

Melco Resorts & Entertainment (6883.HK) has three casinos and the Mocha Clubs. The company operates the City of Dreams and Studio City in Macau and the City of Dreams Manila.

In January, the company announced a major management reshuffle, with David Sisk named as property president for City of Dreams Macau, replacing Gabe Hunterton, who will leave the company.

Geoff Andres, who is currently president of of City of Dreams Manila, will replace Sisk as property president at Studio City in Macau. Kevin Benning, who was formerly VP of gaming operations in Manila, has been promoted to senior VP and chief operating officer of the Philippine property.

The company is now exploring possible Phase 2 expansion for Studio City and has been granted an extension of the development period under the Studio City land concession contract. It is expected that the additional development will include a hotel and related amenities. For Q4, MLCO reported net revenue of $1.33 billion, a gain of 12 percent, which was in line with expectations. Adjusted property-level EBITDA was $340 million, also up 12 percent. Analysts say City of Dreams is underperforming the company’s other Macau properties.

Wynn Macau (1128:HK) operates two resorts, with its $4 billion Wynn Palace opening in 2016. The company’s original property is on the Macau Peninsula. The Wynn Palace has 1,700 hotel rooms and 90 percent of the resort will be non-gaming. The company’s Q4 2017 results beat expectations, with adjusted property EBITDA gaining 64 percent to$376 million year on year. Net revenue came in at $1.31 billion, up 43 percent. Both mass revenue and VIP performed strongly, gaining 36 percent and 20 percent respectively. Despite the positive results, the group’s share price has been hit hard after founder and CEO Steve Wynn was forced to step down following allegations of sexual misconduct. Representatives from the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau reportedly met with top executives to discuss the situation.

MGM China (2282:HK) is operating a single casino on the peninsula. MGM China’s Q4 revenue gained 10 percent, pulled up by the mass market, which benefited from a gain in both volume and hold percentage. Net revenues were $549 million. Revenue from main floor table games was up 21 percent, helped by a 10 percent increase in volume and a gain in the hold to 21 percent from 19 percent in the same period a year earlier. VIP revenue fell 5 percent, even though turnover was up 23 percent, as the hold fell to 3.1 percent from 3.7 percent the year before.

The HK$27 billion MGM Cotai opened its doors on Feb. 13. The company said the initial demand and customer feedback to the resort has been positive. Like its main competitors MGM is also actively seeking a license to operate in Japan.