Asia round-up: Macau casinos close, Abe’s IR legacy & Sands China loan

Macau has closed all of its casinos for the first time in over two years following a Covid-19 outbreak in the region. 

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Authorities have ordered non-essential businesses to shut for a week. This includes over 30 casinos and comes as the city has recorded 1,526 Covid cases since mid-June 2022. 

Around 19,000 people have been put in quarantine amid the city’s worst Covid outbreak since early 2020, with schools and entertainment venues such as bars and cinemas already closed under previous guidelines. 

Short trips for essential services are, however, allowed. But police will monitor the flow of people outside, with stringent punishments expected to be imposed on those who disobey. 

On Saturday, Macau’s Government Information Bureau stated that all businesses would be required to cease operations unless they were essential. 

Reuters has reported that gaming shares have slipped since the announcement, with shares in Sands China falling by 9%. Shares in Melco International, Wynn Macau, SJM, Galaxy and MGM China dropped between 6% and 7%. 

Japanese IR’s a legacy of assassinated Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated while campaigning for his party on 8 July 2022; he was the longest-ever serving Prime Minister of Japan following the end of his previous term. 

Abe pushed through the legalisation and development of Japan’s Integrated Resorts (IRs) in his time in office, with Osaka and/or Nagasaki expected to be granted IR development licences in two months.

It is somewhat tragic that Abe has passed away so close to the realisation of a process that he initiated. 

The first discussions to develop integrated resorts in Japan were sparked between Abe’s first and second terms (2009 - 2012). 

Authorities have ordered non-essential businesses to shut for a week. This includes over 30 casinos and comes as the city has recorded 1,526 Covid cases since mid-June 2022

Japan’s IR Working Team was established in 2011, a time in which Southeast Asian competitors such as Singapore were opening their own IRs.  

These resorts, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Manila, are the model upon which Japan hopes to develop its casino resorts. 

Two years into Abe’s second term – 2014 – IR consideration was reintroduced into Abe’s policy choices, under the Japan Is Back growth strategy.  

Finailly, in 2016, Abe’s third cabinet introduced the IR Promotion Act, which allowed formerly prohibited casinos to re-enter Macau.  

Abe himself became Director of the Headquarters for Promoting Development of Specified Complex Tourist Facilities Areas in 2017, and in 2018 an IR Implementation Act was introduced to establish casinos as tourist destinations. 

And 2019 saw the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism introduced so Japan could develop three IRs, two of which are, as mentioned, scheduled to be approved for development in the coming months. 

Las Vegas Sands issues $1bn loan to Sands China 

Sands China has confirmed that it has entered into a loan agreement with the company’s controlling shareholder, Las Vegas Sands (LVS). 

LVS extended a subordinated unsecured term loan of $1bn to Sands China on 11 July 2022, which has to be repaid on 11 July 2028. 

For two years following the initial loan agreement, Sands China will have the option to pay interest at 5% per annum or payment-in-kind interest at 6% per annum. 

The loan was secured to support working capital and the company’s general corporate purposes. The loan is pre-payable by Sands China, in whole or in part at any time, free from penalties. 

The Sands China board confirmed that it considers the terms of the loan agreement to be fair and reasonable and that it is in the interests of the company and shareholders. 

In a statement, Sands China suggested that the loan agreement is indicative of both its and LVS’ confidence in the future growth potential of Macau's market while highlighting that the loan “further bolsters the company’s balance sheet position and liquidity.” 

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