CHAIRMAN AND CEO
Melco Resorts and Entertainment
CHAIRMAN AND CEO
Studio City International
POWER SCORE: 3,636
POSITION LAST YEAR: 4
CLAIMS TO FAME
- Only operator besides Sands China with frontage along Cotai’s central avenue
- Pursuing global expansion into Cyprus, Japan
- Lone Macau operator present in the Philippines with City of Dreams Manila
HAVING endured a challenging year in 2020 with the death of his father – Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho – an ill-fated foray into Australia via Crown Resorts and the crushing financial blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 hasn’t been a whole lot better for Melco Resorts & Entertainment’s Lawrence Ho.
COVID-19 continues to impact Melco’s bottom line, with a US$1.26 billion net loss in 2020 followed by losses of US$233 million in the March quarter of 2021 and US$186 million in Q2. A gradual recovery trend for much of the year has been tempered by recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Macau and Zhuhai, again delaying forecasts of better days ahead.
Also on hold is Ho’s long-held dream of opening an integrated resort in Japan. Yokohama – whose final two RFP candidates included Melco, alongside Genting Singapore – had its bid abruptly cancelled in September after anti-IR campaigner Takeharu Yamanaka won the city’s mayoral election. Melco, which is continuing with development of a ski resort in Nagano and a hot spring resort in Hakone south of Yokohama, says it remains committed to Japan, but exactly when or how another opportunity will emerge remains to be seen.
Yet there is reason for optimism about the years ahead. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Melco was making clear and significant strides about Macau with a series of key changes to the company’s executive team resulting in record mass table gaming revenues in 2019, led by flagship property City of Dreams.
While COVID has stunted Melco’s momentum, those 2019 results are significant given that much of the gain was made in the lucrative premium mass segment. In a July 2021 note, Sanford C Bernstein analysts said the company’s strength in premium mass meant it was particularly well positioned to take advantage of Macau’s shifting customer demographic as the SAR emerges from its pandemic setbacks.
With that in mind, it was no surprise to see Melco announce in July that it had ceased junket and VIP operations at its original Macau casino, Altira Macau, and was converting all gaming areas to premium mass instead.
Meanwhile, development work on Studio City Phase 2 is now well underway with a new water park opening its doors in May.
Internationally, the company will launch Europe’s first true integrated resort, City of Dreams Mediterranean, in Cyprus in late 2022, featuring a 7,500-square meter casino with 100 gaming tables and 1,000 slot machines, a 500-room, 5-star hotel, MICE space and restaurants.
And new to the development pipeline is a multi-billion dollar mixed-use residential, entertainment and hospitality complex in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province, in partnership with Hong Kong-listed Agile Group. Melco’s interest will be primarily limited to a theme park, although the broader complex will incorporate residential, commercial, recreational and entertainment elements, including residential complexes, office areas, hotels, serviced apartments, wellness centers and shopping malls.
As Japan and Australia show, Melco’s international ventures have not always come up trumps, but with Ho at the helm the company will never be short on ambition, drive and energy.
For the full list of 2021 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.