Gambling giants hit by Macau $100 billion downturn

James Packer

Last December Macau recorded a 30% monthly revenue drop, as the Asian gambling hub reported its first ever growth decline. Macau has been the focus of the Chinese Public Security Ministry’s fight against corruption and money laundering, a key public and political concern set out by Xi Jinping in 2014.

The revenue plunge has accounted for a 40% fall in market capitalisation of HK $859 billion from HK $1433 billion. Australian business news source Fairfax Media reported that the six listed Macau casino operators lost a combined value of HK $574 billion ($ 91.6 billion) in 2014.

Macau’s gambling downturn has led James Packers joint casino and leisure venture Melco Crown to delist from the Hong Kong stock exchange. The operator will now focus its corporate capitalisation on its American listing having lost HK $61 billion in market value.

Other operators affected include Sheldon Adelson’s Asian casino subsidiary Sand China which recorded the biggest capitalisation hit losing 40% of its value (HK $208 billion). SJM Holdings controlled by Stanley Ho witnessed a decline of HK $73 billion reporting its worst yearly performance since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Chinese Security Ministry has made it tougher for Macau casinos to transfer and transact money from offshore locations, the restrictions have had a direct impact on the wagering and play of high value (VIP) players in Macau, leading to the 2.6% overall decline in market performance.

In late 2014, XI Jinping had warned Macau officials that the province needed to end its reliance on gambling and look to attract other business industries to operate in the region. The Chinese government stated that it would support Macau as it looks to grow its industry outside of gambling. It remains unclear whether the listed casino operators will follow Xi Jinpings advice.

Business analyst have had contrasting views with regards to Macau’s future performance, with opinion split on whether the Asian gambling hub can return to growth in 2015, following the Chinese governments restrictions placed upon them. Regardless of its future outlook,  all Asian business sources agree that Macau is set for an eight straight revenue decline in January.

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