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China eases Macau border restrictions, shares in casino operators jump

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China has loosened coronavirus-related border restrictions between Macau and the neighbouring coastal province of Guangdong, sending shares of Macau casino operators surging on hopes of a quick pickup in demand.

Guangdong authorities said late on Monday that from July 15 visitors arriving from the world’s biggest gambling hub would no longer have to undergo a 14-day quarantine. The border with mainland China has been effectively shut since late March.

Hong Kong-listed Wynn Macau (1128.HK) soared, up 7% in Tuesday late morning trade while MGM China (2282.HK) climbed 5%. The stocks are, however, still down 25% and 21% respectively for the year to date.

Some analysts were upbeat about recovery prospects.

“We expect demand from Guangdong can recover quickly to 70% of normal levels, assuming visas resume reasonably soon,” said DS Kim, an analyst at JPMorgan in Hong Kong said.

But Vitaly Umansky, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, noted hurdles to movement into and out of Macau remain.

“Individuals coming to Macau from outside of Guangdong would face difficulties in travel as they would likely need to stay in Guangdong for two weeks prior to traveling home, which will severely restrict visitation,” he said.

Visitors must also still test negative for the coronavirus in the previous seven days and must hold green health codes for Macau and Guangdong.

The loosening of restrictions for Guangdong, which accounts for close to 50% of Chinese visitation into Macau, comes as nearby Hong Kong imposes new strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Macau has not had a new local coronavirus case for over 100 days and all its 45 COVID-19 patients have been released from hospital. In comparison, Hong Kong has seen a sharp spike in the number of cases. Ferry services between Hong Kong and Macau remain halted.

Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Edwina Gibbs