Casino stocks post euphoric gains as SA eases lockdown
JOHANNESBURG - Shares in South African gambling and leisure companies shot up on Thursday after the government surprised traders by announcing plans to ease Covid-19 lockdown restrictions on the sector earlier than investors expected.
Tsogo Sun Gaming Ltd. was 30% higher as of 3:06 p.m. in Johannesburg, with Sun International Ltd. up 23%, City Lodge Hotels Ltd. advancing 21% and Tsogo Sun Hotels Ltd. climbing 18%. President Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday night that gambling establishments, hotels, restaurants, beauty salons and theaters will be allowed to reopen, as long as they stick to strict health protocols. He didn’t specify a date.
“The leisure sector is indeed getting a benefit from the easing of the lockdown, because in the general recovery since the March lows, it has been seen as unlikely to open quickly, and lagged behind,” said Stephen Meintjes, head of research at Momentum Securities in Johannesburg.
A local index of travel and leisure companies had sunk 55% percent this year before Ramaphosa spoke, making it the worst-performing industry segment. The country entered a lockdown on March 27, which the government is gradually relaxing, even as the pace of new infections continues to rise.
“Some investors were expecting this sector to experience a lockdown right till the end,” said Casparus Treurnicht, a fund manager at Gryphon Asset Management in Cape Town.
South Africa has 80,412 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,674 fatalities, with the number of cases currently doubling about every 12 days. There have been more than 2,100 new cases daily for the past 14 days, a proliferation that in part reflects increased testing.
Thursday’s stock gains indicate “improved sentiment toward business that are opening up again,” said Michele Santangelo, a money manager at Independent Securities in Johannesburg. “Importantly, there are the first signs that many of these businesses that have been decimated under the lockdown are coming out of the worst.”