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Casino Stocks Up: Wynns, MGM Grand

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
Apr/01/2009

While the news has been mostly bleak for the land-based casino sector, good news has come this week from Wall Street.

MGM Mirage's stock rose 14 cents, or 6 percent, to $2.47 in morning trading, while shares of Las Vegas Sands added 47 cents, or 15.6 percent, to $3.48.

There was more good news for Wynn and the Melco Crown Group. Wynn's stock gained $1.26, or 6.3 percent, to $21.23, with shares of Melco Crown up 30 cents, or 9.2 percent, to $3.58.

Each of these casino groups have more in common than simply offering gambling.  They all have properties in Macau. 

"While the Macau gaming market faces difficult comparisons during the first half of 2009 given the credit-driven growth in the market last year, gaming revenue has largely been better than expected in Macau over the past several months," Felicia Hendrix of Barclays Capital said.

But while the U.S. stock market recorded its strongest monthly gains in more than six years during March, the results didn't filter down to the gaming sector, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

The stock prices of major casino operators continued on a double-digit downward spiral in the month as liquidity issues and multibillion-dollar debt loads triggered fears among investors, that paper reported.  Only three of the 10 major casino operators in town reported an increase during the month of March.

Even with the good news for MGM Grand and Sands, the average daily stock prices of MGM Mirage (down 47.3 percent compared with February) and Las Vegas Sands Corp. (down 28.1 percent) are off more than 95 percent each compared with a year ago.  Wynn's price, meanwhile, is off 80 percent from a year ago.

Gambling911.com had previously reported on MGM Grand's potential for heading into bankruptcy.

Despite winning a two month reprieve to restructure debts, auditors raised 'substantial doubt' in whether MGM Mirage could continue operations. MGM Mirage, largest casino owner on the strip, has reported a painful $1.15 billion fourth-quarter loss after writing down properties because of shrinking gambling revenue.

The auditor's comments increase the likelihood MGM Mirage will seek bankruptcy protection from creditors. Banks granted waivers on the $7 billion bank-loan facility until May 15. The company said on March 3 it was in talks to avert a potential breach of covenants.

"MGM Mirage was the most profiled operator during the month as a series of events raised concerns with investors," Applied Analysis partner, Brian Gordon, wrote in a report on Tuesday.

The Las Vegas Sands witnessed a major shakeup during the month of March, adding to Sin City's woes.

Only three Vegas casino operators had positive months:  Ameristar Casinos was up almost 22 percent; Penn National Gaming was up 9 percent and slot machine maker WMS Industries was up close to 3 percent. 

Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com        

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