MGM Finds the Ace Up Its Sleeve

05/03/2013 6:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Was the casino operator merely lucky, or is its big bet on Vegas and Macau simply paying off? MoneyShow's Jim Jubak, also of Jubak's Picks, gives you his answer.

MGM Resorts International’s (MGM) China unit reported record performance for the first quarter of 2013, the company announced yesterday before the New York markets opened. But the big surprise in MGM's earnings report came from Las Vegas.

EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) climbed 12% year over year at the company’s US operations, to $361 million. For the quarter, MGM reported earnings of a penny a share, which beat Wall Street projections of a 10-cent loss for the quarter. Revenue (less promotional allowances) climbed 2.8% year over year to $2.35 billion, against the $2.34 billion consensus.

MGM Resorts shares closed up 5.4% on the news yesterday. And not surprisingly, because for MGM—the largest casino operator on the Las Vegas Strip—a return to growth in the domestic market is more than welcome news.

Revenue at wholly owned domestic resorts increased 3% in the quarter from the first quarter of 2012. Revenue from table games climbed 16%. In the conference call, the company said it sees the recovery in Las Vegas continuing into the second quarter. RevPAR (revenue per available room) would climb at a 2% rate in Las Vegas in the second quarter, from a 1% growth rate in the first quarter of 2013.

MGM China didn’t do too badly either. Revenue climbed to $748 million, a 6% year-over-year increase. EBITDA climbed 10%. In the conference call, the company said its new Cotai Strip casino and hotel complex in Macau is on schedule for an opening in the first half of 2015.

This is pretty much the performance that I was counting on when I added MGM Resorts to my Jubak’s Picks portfolio on May 4, 2012 at $12.43 a share. I am going to adjust my one-year target price slightly, to $18 a share from $17.50, since I think the turn in Las Vegas is happening a little faster than I expected.

Full disclosure: I don't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. When in 2010 I started the mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, I liquidated all my individual stock holdings and put the money into the fund. The fund may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares of MGM Resorts International as of the end of March. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of March, see the fund's portfolio here.

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