Shares of Macau concessionaires are slumping Tuesday. That’s after the special administrative region’s (SAR) government said it’s looking to exert more control over casino operations.
In early trading, Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), the biggest Macau operator with five integrated resorts there, is off 10.55 percent. Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), parent company off Wynn Macau, is also lower by more than 10 percent. Melco Resorts & Entertainment (NASDAQ:MLCO) is down more than seven percent.
Fueling the angst over Macau stocks, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) announced today that it’s commencing a public consultation period that will run until Oct. 29. Investors fear that could ultimately lead to increasing government oversight of the gaming industry.
Lei Wai Nong, Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, said at a press conference that a key component in the SAR’s recently revealed five-year development plan is the “healthy and sustainable development” of the casino business and more competitiveness in the industry. Market participants are fretting those efforts could play out in the form of tighter regulations.
Lei didn’t indicate if plans include opening the market to more operators. Currently, six concessionaires run the SAR’s roughly 40 gaming venues. The three US-based companies active in the world’s largest casino center are LVS, Wynn and MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM). MGM isn’t slumping as much as its rivals because it doesn’t control all of the MGM China unit, and its revenue stream is less Macau-dependent.
For Macau stocks, Bad Timing
For companies doing business in China, there’s never a good time for more government oversight. But news that Macua might seek to tighten regulations on gaming operators arrives as concessionaires and investors are pondering the fate of license renewal.
All six operators’ gaming permits expire in June 2022, and the coronavirus pandemic delayed revision of the SAR’s gaming laws. The government wants to update those laws and the issue is tied to license renewal. Some analysts and operators believe that when next June rolls around, the government may simply extend permits for up to five years.
Local law gives authorities some wiggle room in that they can renew current accords with gaming companies and revisit the license renewal issue in 2027.
Adding to the delays is that Macau must work through a new tender process. Local law must be altered prior to that effort commencing, and that’s how the five-year extension could take place. The maximum extension allowed is five years, following the 20-year period in which the original licenses are valid.
Lei didn’t comment on whether or not the government will opt to extend current licenses as a stopgap measure.
Bad Timing Part II
Further fueling investors’ angst is that Macau’s plans arrive as Beijing is tightening the regulatory screws on Chinese consumer and technology companies — moves that unleashed a wave of selling pressure on previously beloved growth equities.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is intensifying scrutiny of consumer-facing internet companies in the name of increasing competitiveness and safeguarding consumer data.
Noble as those objectives may be, investors are ditching Chinese internet equities, and some are pondering whether similar regulatory efforts could eventually weigh on Macau stocks.
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