Melco Crown Became an Even Better Bet After This Boost


Melco Crown has a new vision for Manila: "Entertainment at its Finest". Photo: City of Dreams Facebook page

Melco Crown (NASDAQ: MPEL  ) , as a purely Asian holding, may not be on the radar of many mainstream American investors who are looking at the big names in the industry such as Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS  ) and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN  ) . Not only is the company expanding its properties and profits in Macau, it is expanding outside of Macau into neighboring countries as well. Melco Crown's newest casino resort is about to open in Manila, and a boost from the government just made this resort even more of a potential cash cow for the company.

A rendering of the City of Dreams Manila, Melco Crown's first venture outside of Macau. Photo: Melco Crown

Melco Crown's first big bet outside of Macau: Manila
Melco Crown, in partnership with the richest Filipino national, Henry Sy, is set to open its City of Dreams Manila resort later this year. Melco Crown made this initial $1.3 billion investment in Manila's new 'entertainment city' in the hope that this area will become one of the future gambling and resort hubs of Asia. While Singapore represents a premier developed market, the Philippines will be another bet on a developing region within Asia supported by huge populations of mass-market gamers and access to traveling gamers from Japan and South Korea.

Melco Crown CEO Lawrence Ho is leading the company to even more growth in Asia. Photo: Bloomberg

"City of Dreams Manila is due to open later this year, marking our first entrance outside of Macau... We believe this property will significantly enhance Manila's appeal to regional tourists who are seeking a unique and World-class entertainment and gaming experience," said Ho.

The pre-opening costs of this new resort added up to $8.8 million this quarter. However, when the resort opens next quarter, these costs should pay off in sizable revenue. And now, the government is giving an extra boost to the company's coming profit with a nice tax break.

Manila lowers taxes
The Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. agreed recently to reduce fees owed by operators in Entertainment City by 10 percentage points of gross gaming revenues. Even though these cuts are only temporary, the break was higher than expected and will result in a nice, welcoming rise in overall profit for Melco Crown's first year in Manila.

Melco Crown has posted solid earnings, and that will only get better
Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands have each posted huge wins driven by their operations in Asia in 2013 and the first quarter of this year. Wynn Resorts beat the first-quarter 2014 estimates with total revenue growth of nearly 10% year-over-year, supported by a 14% revenue increase for its Macau operations. Las Vegas Sands did even better as it led the field with first-quarter 2014 revenue of a record $4.01 billion, up over 21% over the same period of last year. Again, the company attributed this to its huge bet on Macau, which paid off with nearly 50% EBITDA growth for its operations there.

Melco Crown also showed huge wins as well. Revenue jumped 19% in the first quarter of 2014 over the first quarter of 2013. EBITDA itself jumped 31% for the same period, which was driven mainly by an increased focus on mass-market revenue. These growth rates put Melco Crown second in the industry behind Las Vegas Sands for first-quarter growth over the same period of last year.

However, what makes these numbers even more exciting is that Melco Crown is building and preparing two new megaresorts: this one in Manila and one in Studio City in Macau. Once it completes them, together they should drive its revenue much higher in the near future.

Foolish takeaway: Melco Crown may be the best bet you can make right now
Melco Crown reported a great quarter of rising revenue and EBITDA for the first quarter of 2014. With the company's resort in Manila opening in the next few months and Studio City opening in Macau next year, profits are likely to continue rolling in for the gaming company despite what happens with Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts. On a price target basis, Melco Crown looks very attractive right now.

Analysts have set an average price target for Melco Crown near $50, and they will probably guide this up as the company continues to post strong earnings. Many of the Macau gaming stocks have been beaten up on concerns about industry regulation, although they should rebound soon. For those Foolish investors who are bullish on great Asian gaming plays like Melco Crown, this could be a great buying opportunity.

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