2017 was an outstanding year for Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), both operationally and in the stock market. Shares have nearly doubled so far this year and the company has executed on growth plans both at home and abroad.
As the calendar flips to 2018, does the company have more growth ahead, or are shares likely to take a breather? Here's what to look for next year.
Macau is still the key
Wynn's share-price spike was driven almost entirely by a recovery in Macau's gaming market. Not only was Macau's gaming revenue up 19.5% through the first eleven months of the year, but VIP play was up 28.5% in the first three quarters. Wynn benefited overall from growth by adding Wynn Palace to its portfolio late in 2016 but also took market share because it focuses on the VIP market.
If the trend of overall growth continues with a focus on the VIP market, then Wynn's operational improvements should continue. I'm not sure if it'll lead to the stock doubling again, but it could result in a big increase in revenue and cash flow.
2018 is a year of construction
Cash flow from existing resorts will be key in 2018 because Wynn is spending $2.4 billion to build Wynn Boston Harbor just outside of Boston and will begin on the Wynn Las Vegas golf course redevelopment early next year. A full budget hasn't been released, but Wynn will spend at least $500 million and potentially well over $1 billion given the 47-story hotel that's going to be part of the development. This is on top of $336 million it recently spent to buy 38 acres of land across the Strip from Wynn Las Vegas.
The good news on the construction front is that construction surrounding Wynn Palace in the Cotai region of Macau should slow, allowing for better vehicle and foot traffic to the casino. MGM Resorts (NYSE:MGM) is due to complete MGM Cotai next year, and construction on the light rail in front of the property is coming to a close as well. Despite those challenges, Wynn Palace was able to generate $555.3 million of revenue and $138.2 million in property EBITDA in the third quarter of 2017, but I would be surprised if EBITDA doesn't trend to a $1-billion-per-year run rate or higher in 2018.
Japan could be the big win
The gaming industry is expecting Japan to release final gaming rules and allow companies to put forth bids for at least two gaming licenses in 2018. Winning the bid could cost a company like Wynn $10 billion in construction costs, but the payoff could be a gaming market that's estimated to be worth $25 billion to $40 billion annually.
Winning a bid like Japan could be the kind of thing that sends Wynn Resorts' stock surging based on speculation of future earnings. But we have no idea what Japan's gaming market will look like or when bids will be expected, so betting on success there isn't a great move for investors.
Will 2018 be the best year yet?
I think operationally Wynn Resorts will have another great year. The company is in a great position in Macau, where the VIP market is booming and Wynn Palace is still ramping up operations. But there aren't going to be any new resorts completed this year, so growth in revenue and EBITDA won't be as high as it was in 2017.
What could supercharge Wynn's stock is growth in Macau combined with winning a bid to build a casino in Japan. I don't know if it would drive the stock to double, so it may not be its best year yet, but it could be a great year nonetheless. I'm certainly confident enough to keep my outperform call on the stock on my CAPS page.