Studio City Resists Macau Slump With Analysts Gearing Up for Coverage

(Bloomberg) -- Studio City International Holdings Ltd., which has outperformed other Macau gaming companies in its first few weeks as a public company, faces a key test on Monday when analysts are expected to weigh in on whether the shares are still worth buying.

Initiations are likely to be published by lead underwriters Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse Group AG and Morgan Stanley as a quiet period expires for analysts. Banks that manage an initial public offering tend to be more bullish on a company’s prospects, but Studio City’s outperformance and concerns about the health of Macau’s casino trends may fuel more cautious commentary.

Studio City Resists Macau Slump With Analysts Gearing Up for Coverage

American depositary receipts of Hong Kong-based Studio City have risen 50 percent above last month’s listing price of $12.50, even as an index of six Macau gaming companies is down 5.6 percent in the same span. The company’s single largest shareholder is Melco Resorts & Entertainment.

Recent earnings and forecasts from Macau casino operators -- including Melco, Wynn Resorts Ltd., Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Resorts International and SJM Holdings Ltd. -- have been disappointing to Wall Street. On Thursday, Studio City said its third-quarter gross gaming revenue declined 2.6 percent and adjusted Ebitda fell about 3 percent. But how did its cheery investors react? By sending shares up 3.9 percent.

Studio City’s peers have also been battered by macro headwinds. Industry gross gaming revenue, reported monthly by Macau’s gaming inspection bureau, has been soft lately. Recent economic data showed China’s economic growth slowed more than expected in the third quarter, which may limit spending by local visitors. U.S.-China trade issues have also weighed on shares of the casino operators.

One saving grace for Studio City may be that it focuses on the mass market. Wynn Resorts said on Wednesday that the higher-end segment in Macau has seen a slowdown since the Golden Week holiday in October. Meanwhile, Studio City has said “there is no assurance that VIP tables will continue to be operated at the Studio City Casino beyond November 2019.”

Still, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Margaret Huang recently wrote that Studio City “investors are underestimating the property’s lagging performance” and said that the casino “lacks connectivity and has trailed peers in revenue and Ebitda.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.