Casino Stocks Soar on Strong Macau Showing

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HONG KONG, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Shares of Macau casino operators rose on Tuesday on reports that gambling revenues in the enclave in December rose 48 percent from a year earlier, signalling sustained growth in the world's largest gambling market.

Shares of Sands China (1928.HK), the Macau unit of Las Vegas Sands (LVS.N), rose as much as 4.72 percent to a near three-week high of HK$10.42, while Wynn Macau (1128.HK), the Macau unit of Wynn Resorts (WYNN.O) advanced 3.56 percent to a three-week high of HK$9.89.

SJM Holdings (0880.HK), Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho's flagship firm, gained as much as 5.7 percent to its highest level in more than two months at HK$4.63.

Macau casino revenue rose 48 percent to 11 billion patacas ($1.42 billion) in December compared with a year earlier, according to a report from Susquehanna Financial that cited Portuguese news agency Lusa.

"The first half will be very strong; we should see momentum maintain," said Aaron Fischer, CLSA's head of Asian consumer and gaming.

"We believe the earnings will surprise significantly on the upside," Fischer said. "Revenue growth has been very strong for the last few months and these companies have been cutting costs a lot."

Fischer expects Macau gambling revenues to rise 17 percent in 2010. In 2009, gambling revenues rose 10 percent from a year ago.

Fischer's top picks are Wynn Macau, which is slated to open a new Macau resort on April 1, and SJM, Macau's biggest casino operator by market share, thanks to the recent opening of its latest property, "Casino Oceanus."

Shares of Galaxy Entertainment Group (0027.HK) rose as much as 3.1 percent to a two-week high of HK$3.32, while Melco International Development (0200.HK), which is owned by Macau gambling scion Lawrence Ho, rose as much as 3.91 percent to its highest level in more than two weeks at HK$3.72. (Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)


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