Posted on: January 3, 2023, 10:09h. 

Last updated on: January 3, 2023, 01:26h.

Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN) stock started 2023 on a strong note with the help of an upgrade from Wells Fargo analyst Daniel Politzer.

Wynn Resorts
Wynn and Encore on the Las Vegas Strip. Wynn Resorts is rallying thanks to a Wells Fargo upgrade. (Image: Vegas Means Business)

In a note to clients, the analyst upgraded the Encore operator to “overweight” from “equal weight” while boosting his price target on the shares to $101 from $74. Politzer’s new forecast implies upside of more than 23% from Wynn’s final closing print of 2022. The gaming stock finished the year with a modest loss, sharply outperforming the broader market in the process.

WYNN is highly levered to Macau’s GGR recovery, now more palpable post China’s policy pivot, and representing the best growth opportunity in Gaming,” Politzer wrote. “Additionally, US fundamentals are solid; Las Vegas has marquee citywide events three of the next five quarters, and Boston should see a visitation/database/GGR bump once Massachusetts sports betting launches.”

Shares of Las Vegas-based Wynn are higher by 3.32% in early trading Tuesday, good for one of the best showings among all consumer discretionary names, with the benefit of the Wells Fargo upgrade. The gaming equity is on the bank’s “tactical ideas” list for the first quarter.

Macau Looms Large for Wynn Resorts

Wynn entered 2023 in solid form thanks in large part to a recent spate of positive headlines — namely Macau’s decision to renew the licenses of the six established concessionaires, including Wynn Macau — and China’s recent call to scrap its zero-COVID policy.

While risks in the special administrative region (SAR) linger, including the potential of a severe outbreak of coronavirus cases and the possibility China reinstates travel restrictions, Politzer believes Wynn can return to pre-pandemic form there more rapidly. The operator has just 2,700 guest rooms in Macau — the second-smallest amount among the six concessionaires. That could be a sign Wynn needs less time to ramp up on the back of the recent reopening.

“We have long held the view that Macau’s recovery remains the key driver of WYNN’s stock,” Politzer said. “For the first time in several years, we see better days ahead, as China is pivoting from its COVID-zero strategy and easing travel restrictions.”

The analyst added that’s room for Wynn Macau to return to 2019 operating results, which would go a long way toward assuaging investors’ skittishness regarding the operator’s elevated leverage. Reduced dependence on VIPs and more traffic from premium mass players in Macau are also among the catalysts that could lift Wynn this year.

Separately, the gaming company reached an agreement with its Wynn Macau unit, under which the latter’s trademark payments to the parent firm will be capped at $75.2 million this year, according to a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

For Wynn Resorts, Fertitta Looms Large, Too

Tilman Fertitta’s Fertitta Entertainment could also figure prominently in the 2023 outlook for Wynn Resorts stock. That company, which owns and operates the Golden Nugget casinos, took a 6.1% stake in Wynn last November.

It was a shrewd move by Fertitta, as Wynn shares raced higher into the end of 2022, meaning he’s already profitable on the investment.

For now, it appears to be a passive position. But Fertitta has a documented track record of taking passive stakes in companies, only to later turn around and make acquisition offers. Some market observers already mentioned it’s possible he moves to acquire Wynn at some point this year.