Most Las Vegas casinos’ shares drop, among worst in 2018

Updated October 11, 2018 - 10:06 pm

Las Vegas casino stocks just can’t catch a break.

After a phenomenal 2017, casino shares are among the worst performers in 2018. They have nearly given up all of last year’s gains.

First it was weaker-than-expected summer business in Las Vegas. Then it was a U.S.-China trade war that only got worse as the summer wore on. Now it’s an investor tantrum over rising interest rates that has sent casino stocks tumbling.

Even casino operators like Penn National Gaming and Eldorado, which have little to no exposure in Las Vegas and Macau, are getting roasted.

MGM Resorts International, the largest Las Vegas operator by properties, fell 1.1 percent Thursday to $25.95, and Caesars Entertainment Corp., the second-largest, dropped 2.3 percent to $8.89. Shares of the two companies are at 18-month lows.

MGM Resorts and Caesars executives reiterated to Wall Street analysts this week that the summer slowdown in Las Vegas was a blip and that bookings and events look solid for the last three months of the year.

“We met with management teams from MGM, Caesars and Penn and come away feeling reassured that recent weakness in the stocks is less a reflection of a change, weakening in underlying fundamentals, and more commonly attributed to technicals, interest rates, macro,” JPMorgan analyst Joseph Greff said in a note Tuesday.

Shares of Las Vegas Sands, the largest U.S. casino operator by market capitalization, fell 1.5 percent Thursday to $55.49, its lowest level since March. The shares are down 32 percent since reaching a high of $81.45 in June.

Wynn Resorts bucked the losing trend Thursday, rising 1 percent to $116.22. Wynn Resorts, though, is down 43 percent since reaching a 2018 high of $203 in January. Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands generate more than half of their earnings from Macau, which has seen a sharp slowdown in growth over the past four months amid trade war fears with China.

Shares of Penn National, which runs two properties in Las Vegas, have fallen 22 percent since July. Penn National generates the majority of its money in the Midwest and South.

Stifel analyst Steven Wieczynski on Wednesday called the selloff in Penn National “irrational” and recommended investors buy the shares.

Shares of Scientific Games fell 3.9 percent Thursday to $23.74. The shares of the gaming equipment manufacturer have tumbled 62 percent since May, the biggest drop among Las Vegas-based gaming companies. In a note, Brian McGill, gaming analyst for Telsey Advisory Group, blamed the sharp stock price decline on Scientific Games’ high debt ratio and potentially weak product sales.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Todd Prince at 702-383-0386 or tprince@reviewjournal.com. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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