MGM Resorts International (MGM 0.77%) released first-quarter earnings Monday for the quarter ended March 31, 2015, reporting net income that more than doubled analyst expectations. Earnings per share of $0.33 blew average EPS forecasts of $0.14 out of the water.
MGM has been full of surprises lately, but its Q4 earnings surprise was that earnings were actually far below expectations and resulted in a net loss, more so than than the fourth quarter the year prior. For all of 2015 MGM lost about $150 million. So with this recent quarterly net income of $169 million, what can we can expect going forward?
A very positive Q1
MGM CEO James Murren opened the earnings press release by saying he was pleased to report that income this quarter is up 65% over the year-ago quarter. This increase is mainly due to the company's strong performance in Las Vegas, where hotel revenues continue to rise and help overall earnings.
MGM's Las Vegas hotel revenue rose 2% year over year (on the heels of a strong Q1 2014 in this segment) where slightly lower occupancy was offset by rising average rates. MGM owns about 27% of the total hotel room market in Las Vegas, the highest of any single company.
While MGM's total Q1 income of $169 million is far lower than that of Las Vegas Sands (LVS 1.19%) at $776 million, it moved to second place above Wynn Resorts (WYNN) for the first time since 2012 after Wynn's Q1 loss of $44 million.
When looking at how earnings increased year over year, MGM looks even more impressive compared to the declines of its competitors that rely much more heavily on Macau. MGM's 65% earnings increase looks incredible compared to LVS's 37% decrease year over year and Wynn's staggering 120% decrease as the company reported a loss.
Still major headwinds
Macau's story continues to look tough for MGM, where the Chinese government is pushing for the market to move away from gaming, especially among the VIP class that this time last year made up about 80% of the gaming market there. MGM's Macau revenue declined over 30% this quarter from its record high Q1 2014.
VIP gaming took the biggest hit for MGM this quarter, down 45% year over year as that segment continues to decline for the entire Macau market. However, the mass market in Macau is a highlight for gaming companies there and what could bring regrowth to Macau in the future. That still may be the long-term case, but MGM posted a decline in mass market gaming revenue of 13% year over year in the just-reported quarter, which doesn't inspire much hope for Macau's market turning around 2015. Going forward, expect Macau's issues to remain a struggle for MGM, especially as it prepares its new multibillion-dollar resort in Macau, set to open in 2016.
What to expect in 2015
Even though this boost in earnings in Q1 of 2015 is very impressive, it doesn't necessarily mean that MGM will post a year-end profit. In Q1 2014, earnings were also positive, and yet the year ended in a loss as MGM's last two quarters were surprisingly bad.
However, Murren was optimistic in the press release, saying, "With the anticipated difficult comparison of the first quarter behind us, we continue to see strong forward trends for the rest of the year in Las Vegas."
For 2015 the stock does look even better than it did in 2014. For one thing, the comparison to Q1 2014 was tough due to how well all of these companies did that quarter as Macau posted record gaming revenue growth. With that quarter behind the company, 2015 comparisons will now be less drastic since Macau started having issues in Q2 last year when revenue growth starting declining.
However, even if 2015 doesn't end in positive income, MGM certainly seems to be moving in the right direction. If MGM can continue beating expectations this year, which it might be able to do with rising Las Vegas revenue and a more stable (even if consistently down) environment in Macau, this could be a comeback year for MGM.