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LEISURE LETTER (12/10/2014)

Tickers:  GTK.IM, MPEL, MGM, PENN, GENS.SI

EVENTS

  • Dec 14: City of Dreams Manila Soft Opening
  • Dec 17:  Upstate NY Casino Decision
  • Dec 20: Trump Taj Mahal Closing

Today's Headline Story

Hong Kong Authorities Investigate Macau Gaming Boss– The Hong Kong police named Cheung Chi Tai and seven of his privately held companies as respondents to an order to have their assets frozen, according to a notice published Nov. 30. People familiar with the investigation said the order was related to a continuing probe into possible money laundering by Mr. Cheung, who, according to court testimony and people familiar with the matter, has historically been one of the biggest shareholders in one of Macau’s largest junkets, Neptune Guangdong Group. The fact that someone as senior in the junket industry as Mr. Cheung is now the focus of a money-laundering investigation represents another serious blow to a business that has already been crippled by China’s corruption crackdown and a liquidity squeeze, said gambling industry executives.

Article HERE

Takeaway: The hits keep coming for Macau and the junkets are potentially a big target

COMPANY NEWS

GTK.IM

  • Effective 9-Dec-14, its subsidiary Northstar Lottery Group, LLC (Northstar) entered into an agreement with the Illinois Department of Lottery (the Lottery) to terminate the private management agreement (PMA) for convenience. The PMA went into effect on 18-Jan-11, and is now expected to terminate in approximately 12 months. 
  • As a result of the settlement, Northstar will record an additional charge in Q4 of 2014 that it preliminarily estimates to be $20 million.  
  • GTECH will retain its separate facilities management agreement through June 30, 2021.
  • More details: HERE

Takeaway:  Messy resolution of a long-standing dispute.  The termination was first discussed in mid-August. 

MPEL & MCP.PM – Melco Crown (Philippines) Resorts Corp said it received authorization from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) to start casino operations at City of Dreams Manila on December 14 2014, with a grand opening of the integrated resort planned before Chinese New Year in 2015. City of Dreams Manila will have six hotel towers from three hotel brands, including Crown Towers, Nobu and Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. It will offer about 380 gaming tables, 1,700 slot machines and 1,700 electronic table games upon opening.
Article HERE

Takeaway:  15 more tables than previously forecasted.

MPEL– Junket operator, Sorte Estrela Entertainment Ltd has opened a VIP gaming room in the Altira Macau casino. An executive director of the junket operator, Fabians Fong, said: “I hope this is the first of three casino VIP rooms the company is going to open within two years.”

Article HERE

Takeaway:  Altira is trying to rebuild its VIP business. 

GENS – Genting Singapore today repurchased 5.9 million shares (39% of today's trading volume) for S$6.55 million. Cumulative shares repurchased year-to-date = 149,483,000 or 1.2% of the outstanding shares.  Following today's share repurchase, the total shares outstanding = 12,098,653,298.  The maximum number of shares authorized for purchase are 1,223,813,684.

Article HERE

INDUSTRY NEWS

U.S. Federal District Court Awards Illinois Casino Damages – A jury awarded four suburban casinos more than $80 million in a federal lawsuit that dates back to disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's time in office. The jury in federal district court in Chicago on Monday awarded $26.3 million in damages, which then were tripled because the case fell under the civil racketeering statute. Under the order, the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin was awarded about $27 million in total damages and the Hollywood Casino in Aurora was awarded about $18.4 million. The two Joliet casinos were awarded the rest, according to court documents. However, attorneys are due in court again Thursday and could object to the decision this week. 

Article HERE

Takeaway: If the ruling stands, this is a good win for both PENN and MGM's JV.

 

United Nations Convention Against Corruption – The fight against corruption is a global concern requiring the broadest possible response to " dismantle its high walls," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday in a message marking the International Anti-Corruption Day. "To dismantle corruption's high walls, I urge every nation to ratify and implement the UN Convention against Corruption," said the secretary-general, underscoring that while the treaty's ground breaking measures in the areas of prevention, criminalization, international cooperation and asset recovery have made important inroads, "there is much more to do."

Article HERE

Takeaway: Anti-corruption gaining center stage attention on a global basis, not just across China.

CPC Officials Prosecuted for Gambling – China's discipline watchdog issued a circular to report six gambling cases involving Communist Party of China (CPC) officials. The officials were found gambling in majiang and card games. They have all received punishment, with some removed from posts, the circular from the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said. The six cases were exposed in Chongqing and Tianjin municipality, Jiangxi, Hubei and Jiangsu provinces, and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. CPC discipline forbids officials from gambling and those against discipline should be punished severely, the circular said.

Article HERE

Takeaway: CPC prosecuting ANY form of gambling, including majiang, not just casino gambling. 

Philippine Gaming Expansion – Cristino Naguiat, chairman state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), said it would be unlikely for the regulator to issue new licences until country President Benigno Aquino steps down in mid-2016. Mr Naguiat’s comments came as the Philippine government is assessing a concept proposal for a casino resort from Caesars.

Article HERE

Illegal WorldCup Gambers at Caesars Plead Guilty – Five people accused of operating an illegal World Cup gambling business out of luxury villas at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas have agreed to a plea deal, leaving the alleged ringleader, high-stakes poker player Wei Seng “Paul” Phua, and his son as the sole defendants in the case. Hui Tang, the general manager of a soccer club in Shenzhen, China admits that he and the others operated an illegal sports gambling business, according to the filings. He has agreed to pay a $250,000 fine as well as $250,000 in forfeiture. The three people who entered guilty pleas today were Yan Zhang, Yung Keung Fan and Herman Chung Sang Yeung, all of Hong Kong. They were sentenced to five years’ probation during which they aren’t allowed to enter the U.S., a $100,000 fine and $125,000 forfeiture each.

Article HERE

Caribbean vs. Europe Cruise Destinations – A smaller percentage of cruisers have booked Caribbean sailings for 2015, according to a forecast by Cruise Holidays International. The survey shows 50.5% of cruise bookings for next year have the Caribbean as their destination, down from 54.8% in 2014. Europe is gaining, with 12% of ocean cruises booked there next year, up from 10.4%. European river cruises account for 6.7% of bookings, up from 5.7% last year

Article HERE

Takeaway:  Europe is clearly the focus for 2015 and that's risky - higher supply growth and a suspect macro environment

MACRO

Hedgeye Macro Team remains negative Europe, their bottom-up, qualitative analysis (Growth/Inflation/Policy framework) indicates that the Eurozone is setting up to enter the ugly Quad4 in Q4 (equating to growth decelerates and inflation decelerates) = Europe Slowing.

Takeaway:  European pricing has been a tailwind for CCL and RCL but a negative pivot here looks increasingly likely in 2015. Following CCL's F3Q 2014 earnings release, we recently turned negative on those stocks based on the negative European thesis. 

 

Hedgeye Macro Team remains negative on consumer spending and believes in muted inflation, a Quad4 set-up.  Following  a great call on rising housing prices, the Hedgeye Macro/Financials team is decidedly less positive. 

Takeaway:  We’ve found housing prices to be the single most significant factor in driving gaming revenues over the past 20 years in virtually all gaming markets across the US.