Recent discussions between mainland China and Hong Kong over a timeline for reopening borders represents a major step forward for Macau’s gaming operators, industry experts say.
A number of media outlets reported late last week that authorities are looking to implement a trial starting in December that would allow Hong Kong travellers to enter mainland China without having to quarantine. The trial would be limited to Guangdong Province initially, with Shenzhen as the sole entry point, a daily visitor quota in place and travellers subject to a health code system. Each person would have to present a green health code to be allowed entry.
“Travellers from Hong Kong could go to other cities in Guangdong province after arriving in Shenzhen, if they have valid health codes and meet other requirements, which are being finalised,” the South China Morning Post quoted one source as saying.
In an interview with Hong Kong’s Economic Daily, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam also suggested the scheme could be extended to Macau with the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge to represent the first batch of ports to open, connecting the three jurisdictions for the first time since early 2020.
While no timeline is currently in place for Hong Kong and Macau to reconnect, subsequent media reports have suggested mainland China is willing to entertain a broader reopening with Hong Kong by February and a full reopening by no later than June 2022.
This, according to analysts, would provide a precursor for Macau to do the same.
“A potential HK-China reopening would allow Macau to drop its quarantine requirements for Hong Kong residents, which historically comprised ~15%+ of Macau’s gaming business,” said analysts from brokerage Bernstein.
“A reopening with Hong Kong would be a positive impact on Macau and successful reopening for HK/China travel could lead to continued easing of travel restrictions between China and Macau.”
JP Morgan added, “In our view, travel easing between Hong Kong and the Mainland is likely to be applicable to Macau (which is already connected to the Mainland without quarantine) and, hence, is incrementally positive to Macau’s demand.
“Recall, GGR from/via Hong Kong accounted for 15% to 20% of pre-COVID mass demand as per our rough estimate, based on visitations from Hong Kong (15% to 20% of total, but with much smaller GGR per visit vs Chinese) and Mainland travelers via Hong Kong (~10% of total or ~15% of Chinese visitors).”
Macau gaming stocks jumped on Monday with the Hong Kong-listed entities of all six concessionaires showing strong increases. Galaxy Entertainment Group rose by 5.01% to HK$44.05, Melco International Development by 3.0% to HK$10.30, MGM China by 4.49% to HK$5.35, Sands China by 7.71% to HK$18.44, SJM by 5.32% to HK$5.94 and Wynn Macau by 5.15% to HK$7.15.
Macau had been close to welcoming back visitors from Hong Kong in June under a blue health code system, with 51 hotels signing up to take part. However, a small outbreak of COVID-19 in early August scuppered those plans before they could proceed.