Sands chief executive Rob Goldstein said he could not be confident that the business’ Macau operations would be profitable in Q4, despite a significant easing of visa restrictions.
Goldstein was speaking after Sands announced its Q3 financial results.
Revenue in Macau remained well below pre-pandemic levels, at $258m, meaning the business’ earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) from the special administrative region was negative, by $152m.
This was mostly caused by continuation and ramping up of strict Covid-19 measures in Macau and mainland China, including a full lockdown introduced in July, leading to the lowest monthly revenue in Macau history.
However, there were signs during the quarter of a possible path to recovery in Macau, Grant Chum – CEO of Sands China – noted that group visas had represented a quarter of Sands’ Macau visitors, though he couldn’t provide similar information for electronic visas.
“But clearly, the provision or availability of that node of application absolutely is helpful to facilitate the visa application for those relevant provinces,” he said.
When asked if these developments mean that Sands was likely to be EBITDA-positive in Macau in Q4, though, Goldstein was hesitant to make such a prediction.
“I think we should be careful,” he said. “Predictions of Macau had been erroneous the last couple of years because we don’t know who’s going to come and we don’t know when they’ll close the market. It’s been stopping for so long. It’s kind of silly for us to pontificate on exact gains in EBITDA.
“Could we be EBITDA-positive? Sure. It’s positive tomorrow if things open up and visitation returns. And that’s going to happen at some point. But I think it’s difficult for us to tell you the fourth quarter could be EBITDA-positive without knowing what effect the visitors team will have in November and then also not knowing how zero Covid will happen. So there’s certainly unknowns in Macau that are very difficult to guess.”
Golstein also gave some limited information on the tender process for Macau’s next set of gaming concessions, set to last 10 years. Sands – as well as the other five current operators in the special administrative region – has submitted an application for a new concession. However, Resorts World operator Genting also submitted an application of its own.
With six concessions available, one applicant is set to miss out.
Chum said that he still expects the whole process to be complete by the end of the year.
“We obviously welcome the smooth progress in the process,” he said. “And we still do expect the entire process to complete by the end of the year, as previously stated by the government.”
Goldstein was also optimistic about Singapore, after Marina Bay Sands brought in $756m in revenue in Q3. he said he was confident that numbers from the venue could rise to well above pre-Covid levels.
“As much as we like the numbers currently, we think there’s much better days ahead for Singapore,” he said. “That market and that destination has grown quite a bit in terms of the Asian tourism world. And I think our numbers will reflect that years ahead.”