It has been a rough end to the summer for shareholders of Las Vegas Sands, who have seen their stock plummet 20% since early August on concerns that Macau's gaming market is taking a turn for the worst. But the falling stock price could create a buying opportunity for investors willing to take the long view with this company.
Macau has gone through rough patches before and the narrative from executives in the industry is that their businesses will continue to grow when uncertainty passes. Here's why I think now is the time to start looking to buy shares of Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS).
Macau's struggles put in perspective
Alarm bells have been going off across the gaming industry over the past few months because Macau's gaming revenue growth has gone negative, something we've rarely seen in the past decade. June's gaming revenue fell 3.7% from a year ago and July and August showed 3.6% and 6.1% declines respectively.
The reaction has been a sharp decline in gaming stocks but some perspective is needed in this case. Much of the decline in gaming revenue has been in the VIP market and is due to a crackdown on corruption in Mainland China and general jitters over the future of the Chinese economy. Instead of going to Macau to gamble away millions of dollars, high rollers have chosen to stay home instead, causing a decline in revenue.
Past experience tells us that the short-term reaction by these high rollers will soon subside and they'll return to Macau eventually to gamble and enjoy new entertainment attractions. The VIP market may not grow at the pace it once did, but it'll still be strong for casinos.
More importantly for Las Vegas Sands, the mass market continues to grow as middle class gamblers travel to Macau in larger numbers. It's this market -- particularly premium mass -- that Las Vegas Sands is focused on and will keep the company's earnings afloat near term. Long-term, the mass market should continue to outgrow VIP play in Macau, playing into Las Vegas Sands' critical mass of resorts on Cotai.
Growth opportunities abound
Las Vegas Sands' core business should remain healthy as Las Vegas recovers and Macau's mass market grows, but the upside is in new resorts. The Parisian is being built next to Four Seasons Macau on the Cotai Strip and CEO Sheldon Adelson has put a lot of effort into potential gaming bids in Korea and Japan.
It's the Japan bid that could be a huge win for Las Vegas Sands, or whoever wins a bid. Japan's gaming market is estimated to be a $40 billion opportunity for gaming companies, nearly the size of Macau. Of course, casinos still aren't allowed in Japan but the potential as well as new potential market like Korea are essentially upside risk for Las Vegas Sands at the current price.
An improving value for investors
While a drop in a stock's price is bad for existing investors, it creates a lower entry point for investors looking to buy the stock. I recently highlighted that Las Vegas Sands' enterprise value is now just 11 times EBITDA, a proxy for cash flow in gaming. Given the growth expected in Macau's mass market and potential growth from The Parisian and other new markets, that's a reasonable value for investors.
I think Las Vegas Sands' stock is a good buy at the moment and when Macau's gaming market returns to growth shares will pick up again. But the more important thing to understand is that Las Vegas Sands is well positioned for long-term growth in Asia where gambling is engrained in the culture.
Travis Hoium owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.