* Net profit HK$7.7 billion vs HK$6.7 billion last year
HONG KONG, Feb 26 (Reuters) - SJM Holdings Ltd, Macau’s largest casino operator controlled by the family of gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, posted a 14 percent increase in net profit for 2013, boosted by wealthy gamblers keen to punt in China’s only legal casino market.
Net profit last year reached HK$7.7 billion ($992 million) from HK$6.7 billion a year earlier, SJM said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday. This was slightly higher than a ThomsonReuters forecast of HK$7.6 billion from 23 analysts.
Gambling revenue in the former Portuguese colony, an hour from Hong Kong by ferry, has wildly surpassed other regional gaming hubs, reaching $45 billion in 2013 compared with $6.5 billion in Las Vegas and $6 billion in Singapore.
With a market capitalisation of $17 million , SJM remains the leader in gross gaming revenue despite losing market share to rivals Sands China Ltd and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, which are rapidly consolidating their presence on Macau’s Las Vegas-style Cotai strip.
The sole player in Macau’s lucrative gaming market for 40 years before the entry of foreign players like Las Vegas stalwarts Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson in 2002, SJM has seen its market share drop to 22-23 percent from a third of the market two years ago.
Shares in SJM rose 0.4 percent on Wednesday and are down 6 percent since the start of the year.
In February SJM broke ground on its new Cotai project dubbed “Lisboa Palace”, which will feature 70,000 square metres (753,500 square feet) of space, of which 90 percent will be allocated to non-gaming facilities like a wedding pavilion, multi-purpose theatre and a six-star hotel by Italian fashion house Versace.