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Operator stocks bounce on IVS renewal news

Shares in Macau’s six casino operators were sharply higher Monday after the Macau government announced the long-awaited news that individual visit scheme visas would be renewed from August 12.

The news was given by Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U, who said both IVS visas and group visas would be available for Zhuhai residents, according to local media.

Galaxy Entertainment shares gained more than 5 percent, while Wynn Resorts was up over 3 percent in Hong Kong trading. SJM Holdings was up 4.8 percent, while MGM China gained 2.7 percent. Sands China was up 1.8 percent after the news. Shares of the U.S.-listed operators are also gaining in pre-market trading.

Despite the positive share price reaction, Ao Leong warned that the quarantine conditions would immediately be reimposed if there is a further outbreak. The relaxation also only extends to Zhuhai residents and not the entire province of Guangdong.

The Individual Visit Scheme (IVS), which was suspended in January, allows mainland residents from 49 cities to visit Macau and Hong Kong and accounted for half of all mainland visitors to Macau last year.

Zhuhai, with a population of 1.7 million neighbors Macau in Guangdong province. The province as a whole accounts for about 30 percent of visitation to the Special Administrative Region. 

Although Macau has been gradually easing border restrictions since mid-July with Guangdong, travel was only permitted for business or family reasons and had done little to push the needle when it comes to improving gross gambling revenue figures.

Bernstein Research estimates that in the first nine days of August average daily revenue at the casinos was down 96 percent on the prior year and also down 24 percent on the prior month.

The firm notes that the latest easing is a step in the right direction, however, will still only have a limited impact adding just a couple of percentage points to GGR recovery.

However, it says these are all “baby steps” in the right direction and it expects further loosening with other cities in the province, or potentially the province as a whole either later this month, or in September.

No local Covid-19 cases have been reported in Macau for 45 consecutive days.

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