UPDATE 1-Macau says August gambling revenue up 5.5 pct y/y
* Monthly revenue second-highest on record
* Analysts see mass market strong, VIP stabilising
* China slowdown starting to seep into gaming
HONG KONG, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Gambling revenue in Macau grew 5.5 percent year-on-year in August, government data showed on Monday, signalling a muted pick up in growth buoyed by demand from mainland gamblers.
August revenue of 26.14 billion patacas ($3.27 billion) was the highest for a single month this year and compared to 24.78 billion patacas in August last year. The highest revenue intake was recorded in October 2011 when Macau took in 26.85 billion patacas.
While Macau was one of the world's fastest-growing economies in 2011, an economic slowdown in mainland China that has rippled across industries from the country's vast manufacturing sector to the property market has started to seep into the casino-studded enclave.
August's data came in at the lower end of forecasts with analysts expecting growth of between 7-9 percent. Macau is the only place in the country where Chinese nationals can legally gamble in casinos. The tiny hub, a third the size of Manhattan has been a key beneficiary of China's rising consumer power and is now the largest gambling market in the world.
Michael Ting, an analyst at CIMB Group in Hong Kong, said revenues from the mass market segment, made up of China's aspiring middle class, were still strong while the lucrative VIP market seems to be stabilising.
"It doesn't seem to be getting worse, so I think gross gaming revenue growth for the rest of the year will just tread around mid single digits or so," Ting said.
China's factory surveys for August, key indicators for the state of the economy, showed the manufacturing sector has been badly hit by slowing new orders, a sign that the pace of growth in the world's second-largest economy will weaken well into the third quarter.
Government data in August showed that Macau's gross domestic product significantly slowed in the second quarter, up 7.3 percent from 18.4 percent growth in the first quarter this year.
Analysts are mostly bullish on the long-term fundamentals of Macau, citing a highly underpenetrated Chinese market, substantial infrastructure improvements to more quickly connect Macau to the mainland and increasing purchasing power of a growing middle class.
Yet the majority of analysts have scaled back their expectations for gross gambling revenue growth this year, expecting around 10 percent compared with more than 20 percent expected at the start of the year.
Since May, visitation growth is down 5 percent year-on-year, U.S. brokerage Wells Fargo wrote in an August note.
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