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In both its fourth quarter and full year 2019 results, Casino operator Las Vegas Sands reported mostly flat revenue as Macau’s overall market slowdown had its effect.

On Wednesday, figures were disclosed showing Sands generated revenue of $3.5b in the three months ending December 31, 2019, a slight 1% increase from the same period last year. Operating income increased 6.8% to $934m whereas net income came in at $783m as opposed to a $40m net loss in Q4 2018, which was aggravated by a one-off tax bill.

As reported by calvinayre.com, Sands China’s Q4 revenue dropped less than 1% to $2.24b; however, adjusted property earnings in Macau managed to increase less than 1% to $811m. Things looked better in Singapore, where Marina Bay Sands’ revenue boosted 17.5% to $853m and earnings grew more than one-quarter to $457m. Likewise, in Las Vegas, revenue was up 12% to $475m and earnings grew one-fifth to $120m.

For the year overall, company-wide revenue was flat at $13.74b and operating income fell1.4% to $3.7b. However, net income grew almost 12% to $2.41b, again, partly due to the absence of a nine-figure tax bill.

In Q4, Sands’ Macau casinos all reported double-digit drops in VIP gambling income, led by Sands Cotai Central’s 63.8% decline – even though the property is currently a construction mess as it renovates to The Londoner – while Sands China’s flagship Venetian property fell 37.4%.

Balancing these drops were gains in VIP win at the Venetian and the Plaza Macao, both posting win rates over 4%, a full point more than the top end of the theoretical range, whereas the Parisian Macao and Sands Cotai Central occupied the top end of that range.

Sands loves to boast about its mass market gaming forte but the Plaza Macao was the only property to experience a year-on-year increase in Q4 mass market table drop. Luckily, base mass table win rate increased across the board, although the premium mass segment declined.

With gaming revenue increase of more than one-fifth, Marina Bay Sands was Q4’s best performer, as VIP revenue spiked 16% and VIP win rate rose by 1.14 points. The property had a 97.3% occupancy rate, up 1.8 points, despite the average daily rate growing 6.4% to $450.

In Q4, hotel rooms in Las Vegas were also harder to come by, whereas gaming revenue enjoyed double-digit increases despite decreased visits from Asian gambling giants.

CORONAVIRUS CATASTROPHE V. OPPORTUNITY

Sheldon Adelson, Sands supremo told analysts that Macau’s troubles were “no big surprise,” due to the December visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping and the short-term restrictions on transit visas to mainland gamblers. Adelson labeled Q4 as a downhill progression: “October extraordinary, November strong and December was soft.”

As for Sands’ response to the coronavirus alarm, now all Sands China staff are wearing masks at the government’s request, prompting Adelson to comment that the casino floor seems like “an operating room.”

Rob Goldstein, Sands President, said the company didn’t expect any slowdown in its Macau construction projects because of the virus. Adelson added that he’d queried his team if the current unusual decline in Macau visits might offer “a chance to accelerate construction” and thereby lessen disruption when the crowds return.

And Sands expects those crowds to return. Goldstein anticipates the current restrictions on Macau visits will create “pent-up demand.” “When the situation does resolve, Macau’s going to be very, very, very busy, because … these folks like to gamble … They will come back in force.”

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