MGM Stock Is Already Hot, But Analyst Sees More Upside Coming

Posted on: June 24, 2021, 09:25h. 

Last updated on: June 24, 2021, 09:48h.

MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM) is the largest operator on the Las Vegas Strip, meaning its stock is highly tethered to recovery in the largest US casino center. But one analyst believes the gaming equity isn’t getting the credit it deserves.

MGM stock
MGM’s Aria on the Las Vegas Strip. An analyst believes the stock will continue soaring. (Image: Los Angeles Times)

In a note to clients today, Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli upgrades MGM stock to “buy” from “hold” while lifting his price target to $54 from $42. That new forecast implies upside of 25 percent from the June 23 close. Shares of the Aria operator are up nearly 37 percent, good for one of the best showings among large-cap gaming equities.

We believe the next leg of the stock story for MGM is likely to be one of improving margins that extend well beyond the ‘over 30 percent’ targets management has discussed as the Las Vegas Strip goal, as well as the 32.5 percent peak margins of 2006,” said Santarelli in the note.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, margin expansion is an increasingly prominent theme for gaming companies and the analysts and investors that follow them. The crisis forced operators to look for efficiencies, and some are pondering for how long leaner cost models are tenable as Las Vegas returns to normal.

MGM Stock Loving Las Vegas

Not surprisingly, MGM has long been one of Wall Street’s favorite ideas as a way to play recovery in the largest US casino hub.

Like its brethren, the Bellagio operator was punished by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. But the company navigated the crisis while bolstering its balance sheet in the process. At the end of the first quarter, it had $6.2 billion in cash on hand and total liquidity of $9.7 billion. That makes it one of the most cash-rich companies in the industry, and it has levers to raise more capital if needed.

Today, Las Vegas is rebounding mightily, as is MGM stock. That’s happening before the return of vital convention business and in advance of some other factors that could be beneficial to the Mirage operator.

Deutsche Bank’s Santarelli pointed to “continued improvements in Las Vegas, with the outlook further buoyed by improving group trends and a Raiders season with fans in the stadium.”

Surprising Comments on BetMGM

While the analyst is broadly bullish on MGM stock, he views contributions from the BetMGM business as perhaps overvalued.

“We see out year Consensus as being too low and, accordingly, the perceived embedded sports/iCasino valuation as too high,” he said.

BetMGM is a 50/50 joint venture between the casino giant and UK sportsbook operator Entain Plc (OTC:GMVHY). It’s the third-largest online sportsbook operator in the US, trailing only FanDuel and DraftKings, and is already the dominant name in the fast-growing internet casino space.

Because BetMGM is a joint venture, MGM doesn’t enjoy all of the economic benefits of the business. That’s likely why some analysts believe the casino company will make another acquisition offer for Entain after being rebuffed by the firm earlier this year.

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