MGM Resorts Int'l (MGM - Get Report) is the only major casino stock positioned to benefit from the still volatile gross gaming revenue (GGR) growth pattern in Macau due to the stock's current valuation, according to analysts at Nomura.
"It concerns us that, excluding the impact of hold, VIP revenue growth recently has been so volatile," analyst Harry C. Curtis wrote. "In our view the latest growth spurt in VIP revs should not be viewed as a reliable indicator of long-term growth."
The reason MGM is exempt from these concerns however is that its stock price is still trading at less than 10x future earnings. Meanwhile competitors Wynn Resorts (WYNN - Get Report) , Las Vegas Sands (LVS - Get Report) and Melco Crown Entertainment (MPEL) are trading at 13.5x future earnings on average.
While the December VIP gaming revenue split has not yet been released, November saw Macau VIP revenue numbers grow over 20%, four times greater than mass gaming revenue growth for the month.
MGM shares were up 0.14% to $28.87 in late morning trading Tuesday. Nomura currently has a $35 price target on the shares.
Overall, Macau GGR grew 8% year over year in December to 19.8 billion patacas ($2.48 billion), which follows a 14.4% increase in November. For the full year, gambling revenue fell 3.3%, the third consecutive year of annual declines.
The China gaming region has now reported its fifth consecutive month of revenue growth.
While the region is continuing to show signs of recovery after 26 consecutive months of year over year revenue declines, analysts at Nomura noted that growth in the region is decelerating and that the 8% growth in December was slightly below consensus estimates of 9.5% year over year growth.
The firm forecast GGR growth of 6% for January and February, and expects that growth to accelerate to 16% and 11% in the second and third quarter 2017, respectively.
In recent notes Nomura has maintained its position that investors should not chase the rally in gaming stocks and instead focus on the growth opportunities from laggards in the sector.
While new casino openings like MGM Cotai in the second half of 2017 and the completion of infrastructure projects like the Taipa Ferry Terminal are expected to spur growth in the near-term, Nomura identified several key risks of which investors should be mindful.
Analysts at Nomura believe that a China property market slowdown, government measures curbing capital outflows and tightened regulations affecting high-end gaming demand could turn investor sentiment in the region negative.