Wynn's earnings per share of $0.33, excluding one-time items, easily beat the Wall Street consensus of $0.15, while its revenue of $773.1 million topped the average estimate by $30 million and passed the year-ago quarter's $769.2 million.
So why was the stock getting pounded Tuesday -- off nearly 9% in midday trading? Let's count the ways.
Year-over-year revenue comparisons don't give a clear picture because 2009's third quarter includes revenue from Wynn Encore in Las Vegas, which opened in late December 2008, while the year-ago period doesn't. On a GAAP basis, Wynn earned $0.28 per share during the July-September quarter, compared with $0.49 for the year-ago period. With that in mind, things don't look so great anymore, at least not on the surface.
Macau revenue falls
Wynn's stock rose sharply in the third quarter, prompted in part by reports that the Chinese government had eased travel restrictions, and that aggregate gambling revenue for Macau casinos had climbed during this period.
However, Wynn reported that third-quarter revenue from Macau dropped to $448.5 million, from $474.8 million for the year-ago period. That may seem strange, because its hotel occupancy rate rose three percentage points to 89.2% and the ultra-important revenue per available room rose slightly to $235 from $234. But when revenue falls, no one's paying attention to the occupancy rate.
Looking forward, Wynn reaffirmed that it expects to open its Encore at Wynn Macau, a resort and casino complex, during the first half of 2010. The company recently completed an IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for 25% of its Macau operations.
Wynn's results should alert investors in other casino operators doing business in Macau, whose stocks also enjoyed strong gains during the third quarter. There's been much hype about IPOs and market share in Macau, but none of it will translate well if revenues are falling.
Las Vegas Sands
Investors should also note that although Macau can offer terrific gains, it appears to be a textbook definition of uncertainty. Travel restrictions may have been relaxed in the third quarter, but there have been recent reports that the rules have been tightened again.
In a recent Bloomberg article, an analyst for Macquarie Securities stated that "obviously they want Macau to grow, the Chinese Government, but they don't want it to grow too fast, create social problems." So while Macau remains an icon of great growth potential, right now it looks a bit more questionable than it did prior to the third quarter.
Investors who bought Wynn in March and got out in September can watch all the action from a safe distance. For those still traveling with Wynn, allow me to quote that famous investment analyst, the actress Bette Davis, from the 1950 film All About Eve: "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride."