|Shares Out. (in M):||526||P/E||n/a||n/a|
|Market Cap (in $M):||2,321||P/FCF||-108.0x||212.0x|
|Net Debt (in $M):||1,800||EBIT||14||25|
Melco Crown Entertainment Limited (MPEL), owns, develops and operates casinos in Macao. The company came public in Dec, 2006 at the lofty price of $19/share, traded briefly above $20, and has been under water ever since. MPEL seriously stumbled and fell out of favor in 2H of 2008, after a drop in revenues, and again in 2H of 2009 as investors started to worry about the risks associated with the company's huge new centrally-located and expensive development, the City of Dreams ("CoD"), which includes Hard Rock and Hyatt resorts, in addition to the marquis Crown Towers. I see short term catalysts that will lead to a reappraisal and re-rating of MPEL, and in the medium to long-term, sustainable high growth rates in gaming revenue for Macao. In short, MPEL is attractive both from a top-down and bottom-up perspective, and I expect the stock to more than double by 2012.
Macau has been and continues to be a phenomenal success. Macau was a sleepy island just a decade ago, but gaming laws were liberalized in 2002, travel restrictions from mainland China eased, and licenses extended to 6 operators, including MPEL (formed in 2004). Gaming revenues grew 8x from $2.2 billion in 2002 to U.S. $16.5 billion in 2009 - making Macau twice as big as Las Vegas. Macau is truly big, located next to a prosperous and densely populated China. During the recent Chinese New Year, an estimated 1m Chinese visited Macua each day. 90% of Macau's revenues are from gambling, which is no less popular in China than it is elsewhere, to say the very least. I believe Macau will at least double in size over the next 5 years as its infrastructure is built out and it evolves into a broader entertainment destination. MPEL is positioned to benefit from this growth.
MPEL's future seemed at risk late in 2009. Its first property in Macau, Altira, had underperformed expectations for a variety of reasons (It was awkardly located off the central Cotai strip, targeted a niche premium segment, etc.), giving the company a mixed reputation in its ability to execute successfully. Also, in 2009, MPEL was just finishing the huge "City of Dreams" funded with a $1.8bn construction loan. Growth was below expectations and 'hold' rates (the % of wagered funds kept by the house) were worse than usual - the casino had bad luck (Picture a high-stakes gambler having a hot night at the tables and promptly departing). The company issued equity at $4/share in April, 2009, and broker's cut their forecasts, igniting fears of re-financing risk as it seemed MPEL would fail some Dec 2010 debt covenants. The reversal of these fears is the catalysts that underpin the investment thesis:
1) Macau's January and February 65% yoy growth bodes well. If MPEL keeps monthly profits at these levels it could beat 'street' estimates substantially (For example, JPM currently pegs 2010 Ebitda at $329m, whereas MPEL's January Ebitda performance was $40m, or $440m annualized).
2) MPEL said it is working to refinance its construction loan debt (due starting 2012) into longer term debt, which may be cheaper, by Q2 2010. I think it is highly probable that the debt will be successfully refinanced on acceptable terms.
3) City of Dreams occupancy rates at the Hyatt are already over 70%, and the low 'hold' rates or 'bad luck' of late 2009, is statistically likely to be reversed: The House always wins.
My 2010 forecast is 20-30% above "street" anaylst estimates but I beleive these numbers are attainable as demonstrated by MPEL's recent Januare run-rate performance and February numbers for Macau, up +70% y-o-y. At 10x EV/Ebitda, which is a discount to MPEL's peers, the stock could reach $7/share in 2011 and $9.60/share in 2012, or +59% and +118%, respectively.
Current Mkt Price: $4.40/share
Target Valuation @ 10x Ebitda: 2011 = $7.08/share
Target Valuation @ 10x Ebitda: 2012 = $9.60/share
Wynn Macau currently trades at an EV/Ebitda (2010) multiple of 13.7x
Sands China currently trades at an EV/Ebitda (2010) multiple of 14.2x
Finally, Melco Int'l (0200 HK) and Crown Ltd (CWN AU) each own 31% of MPEL, providing a high level of inside ownership.
Risks to the thesis are: China either implodes or drastically restricts growth, or both, reducing travel to and gambling activity in Macau; A government imposed travel restriction to Macau/backlash against destructive gambling behavior; MPEL's City of Dreams is a flop.
1) Re-financing of MPEL's construction loan in the next few months; 2) Raising street estimates for 2010 based on significant out-performance versus current forecasts; 3) Success of City of Dreams.