Shift in geopolitics poses risk for Macau operators

Systemic shifts in the long-term relationship between China and the U.S. are underway, with the two economic superpowers charting an increasingly divergent path, and the change in course may have major implications for Macau’s operators, according to a leading risk consultancy.

There are signs that U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will announce a truce at a meeting later this month. However, this is unlikely to affect the underlying sentiment, with many politicians in Washington viewing China and an open adversary, Steve Vickers & Associates said in a report.

“The harsh reality is that this trade war is merely a symptom of a growing divergence between the US and China; a little diplomatic bonhomie will therefore not alter that systemic trend,” it said.

Any such shift will pose threats to those businesses that had been reliant on warm ties between the two nations, the report says, pointing to the U.S. operators in Macau — Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, and MGM China.  

“These gaming businesses have profited mightily since 2001, soaking up funds gambled away by mainland Chinese visitors,” it writes. “Now, though, the Chinese leadership has cause to ask whether to allow American companies such a boon, particularly given the strong and very visible ties between one or two of the gaming tycoons and President Trump.”  

Macau gaming stocks have already been sold off on expectations that the trade war, which affects more than $260 billion in goods, will slow the Mainland economy and as a result put the brakes on gross gambling revenue. The VIP sector is expected to be the hardest hit and many analysts have already revised down their forecasts for growth next year.