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Casino stocks draw winning card after Macau October beat

A dealer handles gaming chips at a baccarat table inside the Venetian Macau resort and casino, operated by Sands China Ltd., a unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp., in Macau, China.
Billy H.C. Kwok | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A dealer handles gaming chips at a baccarat table inside the Venetian Macau resort and casino, operated by Sands China Ltd., a unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp., in Macau, China.

Shares of leading casino companies scored big wins Tuesday after monthly gaming revenues for Macau turned in a stronger-than-expected performance.

October gross gaming revenue (GGR) for Macau rose 8.8 percent on year-over-year basis, exceeding analysts' consensus for a 6.6 percent increase. It marked the third straight month of upbeat GGR growth for the Chinese territory and followed September's rise of 7 percent.

On Tuesday, Wynn Resorts' stock was up as much as 4 percent in active trading. MGM Resorts and Las Vegas Sands shares were ahead as much as 2 percent intraday, also in above-average volumes.

Wynn shares ended the day just shy of their intraday highs. Shares of MGM and Las Vegas Sands also pared their gains, ending the session down about 0.88 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

Macau's GGR improvement in October was helped by an extra weekend day. Nomura analyst Harry Curtis estimated the month would have been up about 6 percent on a year-over-year basis "after normalizing" for the extra day.

There has been additional gaming table supply added in Macau in recent months with the opening of the Wynn Palace in August and the Sands' Parisian in September. The two new resorts together added 16 percent to Macau's overall hotel capacity, Curtis estimated. And MGM plans to open another resort in the first half of 2017, more than doubling its presence in Macau.

"On the whole, we have somewhat mixed feelings on the October GGR print, and encourage investors to temper their enthusiasm accordingly," said Stifel analyst Steven Wieczynski in a note Tuesday.

"Though better-than-expected GGR performance during the first full month comprising both of the market's recent new openings is clearly a positive sign, our market sources suggest the majority of the strength was VIP-driven. That said, we view the comp cautiously, as we acknowledge the volatility inherent in the VIP business and suspect operators may have ratcheted up promotional efforts to help stimulate demand in order to support the recent new openings," he said.

Trends are likely "to remain choppy in the near term, particularly on the mass side of the business, as the market works to fully absorb recent and forthcoming supply additions," said Wieczynski.

Indeed, it appears the gaming revenue in Macau slowed in second half of October after Golden Week, a national holiday period celebrated in China from Oct. 1 to Oct. 7.

"Our checks on recent weekly volume suggest average daily GGR decelerated in the second-half of the month," the Nomura analyst said. "Golden Week was quite strong this year; however, post-GW activity likely remained weak relative to supply growth."

Meantime, the outlook for November isn't encouraging.

"If November daily GGR shapes up similar to the past 3 weeks" then November could end up with growth "flat to up 5 percent" on a year-over-year basis, according to Curtis. He pointed out that November gaming revenues in the previous two years were also weak.

Curtis said the firm's estimates for November "assume inconsistent lift" from the recent openings of the Wynn and Sands properties in Macau.

"In the past, any lift in openings-driven Macau visitation was transitory in nature, typically lasting no more than two weeks," he said. "We believe that Parisian is having a stronger impact on driving visitation than is the Palace."

Investors will likely learn more about the outlook at Wynn and its new Palace resort on Wednesday, when the company reports its third-quarter earnings after the close. There have been reports that the Palace's opening was lackluster and it followed the exit of a key exec behind the $4.1 billion resort.