With the Chinese market seemingly back on track, many investors are starting to feel a lot better about securities targeting this part of the world. This is particularly true in the gaming space, with companies that have a heavy operation in the gaming haven of Macau taking center stage.
In fact, Macau is actually the largest gaming market in the world, having surpassed Las Vegas several years ago in total revenues, despite having just a fraction of the total number of casinos. So, gaming companies definitely need to have a presence in this key market, or risk being left behind by their competitors.
Top Pick with a heavy Macau focus
One such company that is well-positioned in this market is Melco Crown Entertainment (NASDAQ:MPEL), a Hong Kong-based gaming company that has entertainment and casino facilities in Macau. The firm operates two casino hotels, giving the company over 500 gaming tables, hundreds of hotel beds, and thousands of gaming machines in this important gaming market.
The company has taken this positive wave in Macau to fresh highs this year, and despite some bumps along the way, has seen gains of nearly 100% in the year-to-date time frame. Furthermore, MPEL has appreciated by over 44% in just the past three months, suggesting that the bull run is definitely under way for this Chinese gaming operator.
Can it continue?
While some might be worried about a continuation of the trend, there is plenty of hope for MPEL to remain A strong company thanks to a recent positive trend on the earnings estimate front. Estimates by analysts tracking the company have universally gone higher for the current year and next year period, suggesting total agreement for Melco in the long term.
The magnitude of the estimate revisions has also been quite strong, with the current year estimate moving up by about 10 cents in the past 90 days, going from $1.05/share to its current level around $1.17. Investors are also seeing a similar trend in the next year figures, while shorter term looks - current quarter and next quarter - have seen a positive trend from this respect as well.
Thanks to this latest move in estimates, analysts are looking for truly impressive growth levels for Melco, both in the short term and the long term; 40% growth is expected for the current quarter, while 52% growth is anticipated for the current year, meaning that the prospects are quite bright for this casino company.
And if you thought that the raised expectations might be a problem for MPEL, consider that the firm has beaten out estimates in three of the last four quarters, with an average beat of over 11% in the last year. Plus, the company has a positive earnings ESP, which suggests that the firm could once again surprise this earnings season.
With these factors in mind, it should come as no surprise that Melco has earned itself a Zacks Rank No. 1 (Strong Buy). This means that we are looking for MPEL to continue its recent run and deliver impressive returns to investors to close out 2013 as well.
Beyond the estimate picture, investors should also note that Melco is looking beyond Chinese waters for growth, potentially opening up new avenues for the company to continue to grow. In particular, the firm is in talks with a Philippines-based firm to develop a Manila casino, while it is also looking to get in on Japan too.
This growth opportunity along with Melco's solid showing in Macau, suggest that the company still has plenty of room to grow, and could be well positioned for strength in the months ahead. So if you are looking for a gaming stock, definitely give this top-ranked pick a closer look, especially if earnings estimates continue to move in the right direction.