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Big 2016 for Macau casino stocks

Tue, Jan 3, 7:10am by Staff Writer

A rollercoaster year for the Macau casino market has ended in positive territory, with share prices of the major casino companies in the former Portuguese colony up an average of 66 percent year on year.

The final five months of the year saw the Macau casino market rebound significantly, with growth month on month in positive territory.

It marked a turnaround in the fortunes of the world’s gambling capital, which had endured two and a half years of decline following a much-publicised crackdown on corruption by Chinese authorities.

In 2015, most of the companies which are heavily invested in Macau saw their shares decline by up to 60 per cent.

Tighter regulation from China, which permits casino gambling only in Macau, remains the biggest threat to the world’s biggest casino businesses, most of which hold significant interest in the territory.

A decision late in 2016 to restrict the amount of money that Chinese citizens were allowed to withdraw at ATMs in casinos in the territory saw an immediate negative reaction across world stock markets.

But the majority of stocks have endured such shocks to end the year in overwhelmingly positive territory.

Hong Kong-listed MGM China Holdings Ltd was boosted by up 66 per cent over the course of 2016, ending at HKD16.08 (US$2.07).

Other big players Wynn Macau (43 per cent), Galaxy Entertainment Group (40 per cent) Sands China (37 per cent) and SJM (15 per cent) all experienced strong growth in a year where the Hang Seng grew just 0.4 per cent.

In fact the only major player to experience a decline was Melco Crown, which slid to $15.90, five per cent down on its 2015 closing price.

Melco endured its own dramas, with major shareholder Crown Resorts having a litany of issues in its Chinese business, including having 18 of its staff arrested by the Chinese government.

In a shock move, Crown Resorts exited from Melco Crown late in the year, with James Packer electing to concentrate on his businesses in Australia.

In Australia, across 2016, Crown Resorts share price fell from $12.46 at the start of the year to 11.58 on closing.

Star Entertainment’s share price remains largely unchanged, opening at $5.05 at the start of 2016 and ending the year at $5.17. It peaked at $6.09 in early October.

Australia’s other big casino player, SkyCity Entertainment, opened 2016 at $4.07 and ended at $3.81.

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