Casino stockholder dividends pulled over COVID-19, but some survive

Undoubtedly, people are getting as tired of hearing about the coronavirus as they are having to live in self-isolation. However, these aren’t normal times and the rulebook has been thrown out the window. As everyone waits and hopes that the global economy will start to be restored soon, the casino industry has been hit extremely hard, with losses expected to run in the upper eleven-figure range. This is forcing some casino operators to cut back on expenses everywhere they can, and this is also going to impact a lot of shareholders who would have normally been eligible for

Star Entertainment Group out of Australia has announced that it is breaking from its standard policies, and won’t be issuing a final dividend for the fiscal year that concludes on June 30. Typically, the casino operator, which just cut its workforce by 90%, has given at least 70% of post-tax normalized profits to shareholders, but the coronavirus makes this an unrealistic proposition.  Additionally, Star Entertainment is going to defer the first-half dividend payment from today to July 2.

A similar situation has been seen with Wynn Macau, the Asian arm of Wynn Resorts. A final dividend expected to be paid to shareholders for last year’s performance will not be handed out, and the company’s Board explains, “During this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, the Board’s primary focus is on safeguarding its Macau operations and most importantly the well-being of its over 13,000 employees. The Board will be continuously monitoring the situation and market conditions in Macau and Greater China and may consider a special dividend in the future when such conditions have stabilized.”

Wynn Macau already began taking a financial beating before COVID-19. Its net profit dropped 19% last year compared to a year earlier, and operating revenue also dipped by 8.7%. VIP table games win dropped 24.9%, while the table games win for the mass market segment ticked upward by 5.9%.

While these two casino operators, and others, are pulling back on dividend issuance, Melco International Development remains strong. The majority owner of Melco Resorts & Entertainment enjoyed a 10.5% increase in profits last year, reporting $232.2 million coming into the company. Net revenue was up by a similar amount, closing 2019 at $5.81 billion, which spells good news as the coronavirus shut down casinos across the globe. Melco was able to support itself during the downtime off the extra financial boost and, as a result, is still going to move forward with its annual dividend.

Lawrence Ho, the company’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement, “While 2020 will inevitably be dominated by the unfolding of the COVID-19 crisis, we enter this year of uncertainty in the best of financial and operational health. Our modest gearing ratio, recent cost cutting measures and CapEx deferrals allow us to maintain our regular dividend program and position us well to counter the hurdles posed by COVID-19.” That dividend is expected to be around $0.0039 a share.