Macao casino bonds slump during anti-graft drive

Updated: 2014-09-30 07:41

(China Daily / Agencies)

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Macao casino bonds are plunging as President Xi Jinping's corruption crackdown against "flies and tigers" spooks VIP gamblers.

The yield on Wynn Macao's notes due October 2021 jumped 93 basis points this month and touched a record 5.80 percent on Monday, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The yield on Melco Crown Entertainment debt due 2021 reached an all-time high of 5.61 percent. The six biggest Hong Kong-listed Macao casino stocks have fallen by 32 percent on average this year.

Gross gaming revenue in Macao, the only place in China where casinos are legal, may fall this year amid Xi's anti-graft campaign. Tour operators are offering private jets to fly China's high-spending gamblers, or VIPs, to Melbourne and Las Vegas so that they can avoid the increased scrutiny in Macao.

"There's a critical mass of headwinds without even getting into the 'China is slowing' dynamic," said Kevin McSweeney, a Toronto-based fund manager at CI Investments, which oversees an equivalent of $90 billion of assets.

"Investors have found more reasons to sell than to buy right now." McSweeney said.

Gross gaming revenues will probably drop by 1 percent this year, compared with an earlier prediction of 5 percent growth, CLSA analysts led by Aaron Fischer wrote in a Sept 24 note. They also cut the 2015 growth estimate to 5 percent from 10 percent, compared with an average of 30 percent in the past 10 years.

VIP guest numbers are unlikely to turn around soon as customers are concerned about the anti-corruption drive, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts led by Billy Ng wrote in a note this month.

Macao banned jewelry and watch retailers operating in casinos from adding new card devices starting in July, Francis Tam, the city's secretary for economy and finance, said in late June.

That had made it harder for gamblers to buy expensive goods in exchange for cash.

"The sustained slowdown in gross gaming revenue now looks more prolonged in investors' minds," said Edmund Harriss, investment director in London at Guinness Atkinson Asset Management, which oversaw more than $1 billion in assets as of the end of August.

"Macao is dependent upon the Chinese market and the clampdown looks to be more sustained and thus has a high impact on Macao revenues."

Over 1,000 casino workers took to the streets on Aug 25 for a seventh time this year to demand better pay and working conditions, the largest demonstration by industry employees so far in 2014.

Macao Gaming Industry Frontline Workers' union is planning more protests.

Macao casinos "will stabilize" as the Chinese special administration region's chief executive Fernando Chui begins his second five-year term in office, Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn said in Macao on Tuesday.