Sands China leads rally in gaming stocks after Macau keeps casino licences at six

Shares of Sands China jumped to HK$22.40, their highest level since Sept 14, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Sands China led a rally in gaming stocks on Monday (Jan 17) with shares surging as much as 22.3 per cent in their biggest daily percentage gain since October 2011 after Macau, the world's largest gambling hub, retained casino licences limit to six.

Shares of Sands China jumped to HK$22.40, their highest level since Sept. 14, compared with a 0.8 per cent decline in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Wynn Macau jumped as much as 19.1 per cent in its best intraday session since October 2011. The stock shed early gains to trade up 9.2 per cent, as at 0230 GMT.

Macau's government announced last Friday that the number of new casino operators allowed to function in the world's largest gambling hub would be limited to six, with an operating period of up to 10 years.

The regulatory announcement provides new clarity and should remove most investors' key concerns such as dividends, government oversight, minimum shareholding by a Macau permanent resident and gaming tax, Citi said in a research note.

The former Portuguese colony is the world's biggest gambling hub in terms of money wagered.

Macau massively tightened scrutiny of casinos in recent years, with the authorities clamping down on illicit capital flows from mainland China and targeting underground lending and illegal cash transfers.

Citi raised target prices on the six Macau casino operators by 8 per cent to 14 per cent following the government's clarification on the revisions in gaming law.

Shares of Galaxy Entertainment, MGM China, SJM and Melco rose between 7 per cent and 9.4 per cent.

"The proposed Bill would remove the current sub-concession structure, but not change to the competitive dynamics ultimately," Jefferies wrote in a research note.

"As the government crackdown on junkets continue, we expect long-term pressure on VIP business," Jefferies said, adding that the near-term gross gaming revenue outlook remains bleak amid uncertainties over timing of border reopening with recent Covid-19 outbreaks in the mainland and Hong Kong.

Follow ST on LinkedIn and stay updated on the latest career news, insights and more.