LVS and MGM positioned to win IR bid: Morningstar

Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts are among the two operators most likely to receive the urban IR concessions in Osaka and Yokohama, notes Morningstar analysts.

“In our view, the companies best positioned to receive a gaming concession by year-end 2019 are those with strong track records of running world-renowned integrated resorts, especially in regions with stringent regulatory control like Singapore and the U.S," said the analysts in a Thursday note. 

Morningstar says it pegs Las Vegas Sands as most likely to win one of the two urban gaming licenses, due to its strong resort experience in Singapore, Las Vegas, and Macau, while MGM Resorts is positioned to win the other due to its strong resort experience in Las Vegas, as well as a healthy track record of dealing with partners.

Other operators are less likely to receive one of the urban licenses, due to either relatively weaker non-gaming resort experience, lack of presence in Singapore and/or the U.S., questionable practices, or portfolio restructuring, said the firm. 

In regards to the cities most likely to win the IR bid, Morningstar supports consensus that Osaka and Yokohama will take home the IR prize. 

Osaka is a favorite “due to strong government support, an already-identified location close to airports and businesses, and the need to improve its local economy and build convention space,” while Yokohama is also a favorite, “given its density and high per capita income, the advantage of having convention and exhibition facilities near Tokyo, and the fact that it already has a location identified for an integrated resort.”

As for regional candidates, Nagasaki and Hokkaido lead the pack, due to their distance from Osaka and Yokohama. Nagasaki has proximity to Korea, availability of land, while Hokkaido can leverage upon its popularity as a winter destination, said the analysts.

Finally, looking at the effect of Japan IRs on Macau, Morningstar says it forecasts Macau to lose only mid-single-digit visitation to Japan, as “it's largely immune due to China's middle-income class growth, proximity to southern China, improving infrastructure in Macau, and the advantage of a critical mass of casino resorts.”

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