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Corruption Crackdown Costs - Macau Casino Revenues Collapse "Shockingly Bad" 53%

Despite a 7% rise in actual tourist arrivals to Macau from China during this Lunar New Year's holiday, 'The Year of The Goat' is off to an extremely inauspicious start. As Bloomberg reports, even with expectations of a 40% drop, Macau casino revenues is now projected to crash a stunning 53.5% from last year. While a decline in VIP gambling was expected (due to, among other things, Xi's extreme crackdown on corruption - and the Macau money laundering schemes), JPMorgan notes, this was still "shockingly bad," as "even premium mass demand remained very muted," and marks the ninth straight month of decline, the longest losing streak since monthly records started in 2005.

 

 

The semiautonomous Chinese territory had a bad 2014, as total gambling revenue fell 2.6%, its first decline on record. Beijing’s corruption crackdown and the slowing Chinese economy together mean there are fewer wealthy Chinese willing to lose money at casino tables. As The Wall Street Journal reports,

The Lunar New Year holiday, a weeklong break for mainland Chinese, is typically a high season for Macau. But average gambling table revenue last week, which covered most of the holiday, fell a massive 55% from a year earlier, according to data cited by multiple analysts Wednesday. This puts the territory on track for a revenue decline of 50% or more for all of February.

 

The weak gambling numbers are especially disappointing because actual tourist arrivals to Macau from China rose 7% over the holiday, according to Barclays. The new visitors are apparently small-time bettors, or perhaps even non-gambling tourists, who can’t begin to make up for the loss of high rollers.

As Bloomberg reports, this year’s downturn comes despite a record high of more than 800,000 Chinese tourists flooded Macau in the first seven days of the Year of the Goat...

“Perhaps the Year of Goat isn’t a lucky year for casinos,” said UOB-Kay Hian Holdings Ltd analyst Victor Yip in an interview, adding that the VIP gambling business still accounts for at least 60 percent of Macau’s gambling revenue. “It won’t work if you only got retail customers but very few VIP gamblers as they fail to boost the gross revenue.”

Of course, it's not just gamboing revenues that are down...

The recent wave of mainland Chinese visitors also spend less than before, a further blow to the fine-dining eateries, luxury retail malls, and high-end hotels that casinos have set up next to their gambling halls. Excluding gambling, per-capita shopping expenses by Chinese tourists dipped 32.8 percent to 1,079 patacas in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to data from the Macau government.

 

Average occupancy at 3-star to 5-star hotels for the so-called Golden Week period of Chinese holiday, which ran from Feb. 18 to 24, fell 6.9 percentage points to 87.5 percent, while average room rates declined 15.4 percent, the Macau Government Tourist Office announced on Feb. 26.

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While casinos and hotels may be lamenting Xi's crackdown, having snared more than 100,000 “flies and tigers,” or low- and high-level officials, according to official data; 'the people' appear pleased, as one tourist noted:

“I’m proud of President Xi because he’s doing something significant and difficult,” Xu said. “Who knows whose money those guys in casinos are spending; if they’re officials, they could be spending mine.”

As far as trading this collapse...

After falling 40% in 2014, the six operators’ stocks are down an average 7% so far this year.

 

But they still trade at a not-so-cheap 16.4 times forward earnings, only slightly below their five-year average of 17.2 times.

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