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Doing Business in Macau

Market Overview

Macau is also a Special Administrative Region of China that shares many structural similarities with its close neighbor Hong Kong, yet offers U.S. suppliers a market with distinct characteristics and opportunities. In this Guide, Macau is treated under each chapter following Hong Kong, with emphasis placed on those areas where the business climate diverges.

Macau enjoys significant autonomy: Formerly a Portuguese colony, Macau became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) upon reversion to China on December 20, 1999. Macau maintains a high degree of autonomy except in foreign affairs and defense, and retains its own currency, laws, and border controls. Macau does not use common law, but uses code law patterned on the Portuguese system.

Macau’s GDP surged by 4.7 percent in 2018. The economic growth was mainly driven by gaming sector. Like Hong Kong, Macau is a free port with low taxation. Since liberalizing the gaming industry in 2002, industry experts calculate that Macau has received US$23.8 billion in U.S. foreign direct investment in the gaming industry (through 2016), spurring visitors and consumption. Other recent growth areas include finance, insurance, construction, real estate, and retail. Macau’s exports include textiles, garments, machines and apparatus, footwear, tobacco and wine. The main export markets are Hong Kong, mainland China, Vietnam, EU and the United States, while imports originate primarily from mainland China, Hong Kong, EU, Japan and Switzerland.

Macau’s huge gaming sector dominates the economy: Gaming revenues recovered significantly mainly due to gaming capacity increases, attracting visits from recreational gamblers. Taxes on gaming revenues accounted for over 80 percent of the Government of Macau’s (GOM) revenues in 2018, generating a significant budget surplus (12 percent of GDP).

Macau’s Key Characteristics: Rapid growth in tourism and inbound investment.

  • Population: 667,400 (end-2018)
  • Visitors: 35.8 million (2018)
  • Total GDP: US$55.0 billion (2018)
  • GDP Per Capita: US$82,600 (2018)
  • U.S. Exports: US$601.8 million, 5.3 percent of Macau’s imports (2018)
  • Trading Partners: Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, EU, Switzerland and United States.

Macau enjoys a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) with mainland China: Macau’s 2003 agreement with mainland China – largely parallel to the arrangement Hong Kong enjoys with the mainland – has enhanced its economic integration with the PRC. In October 2017, Macau and Hong Kong signed a CEPA to strengthening economic and commercial relations between the two cities. On January 1 2018, the CEPA between Macau and Hong Kong became effective.

Market Challenges

Gaming and tourism eclipse other sectors: In 2018, Macau’s gross gaming revenue reached US$37.9 billion, significantly exceeding the combined revenues of Nevada and Atlantic City combined. However, many U.S. firms are overlooking opportunities in other sectors. Finding local talent can be challenging: Macau’s explosive growth has led to stiff competition among firms in identifying and retaining high-caliber local managers and staff. This challenge will endure due to Macau’s relatively small local population.

Market Opportunities

U.S. exports to Macau: In 2018, U.S. capital goods (in comparison with 2017) dropped by 22 percent. Consumer goods and raw materials/semi-finished products dropped by 17 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

Specific U.S. export opportunities: The recent expansion of Macau’s hospitality sector has created demand for food/beverage products and services and related hospitality consumables. Other opportunities include: gaming equipment; architectural services; energy-efficient lighting, HVAC systems, and “smart building” systems; recreational and sports equipment; security equipment; hotel, restaurant, and resort management training services; computer and financial software; and meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) services such as exhibition and event planning.

Major projects: Among the ongoing private and public projects are the development of the Cotai Strip (Las Vegas Sands added 5,800 additional rooms to three new hotels; neighboring competitor, Hong Kong-based SJM and Galaxy Entertainment, MGM Macau, and Wynn also planned to add new facilities), a new Light Rail Transit System, and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. New projects include the Pac On Ferry Terminal.

Hengqin Island and Regional Development in Zhuhai, PRC. Hengqin Island in Zhuhai, adjacent to Macau’s Taipa and Coloane islands, is being developed by several investors who are also currently building projects in Macau. A number of planned projects have been reported in the press, including resorts, hotels, integrated retail and convention centers, luxury villas, education facilities and other services areas in Hengqin and elsewhere in Zhuhai. Notably, these projects will not include gaming facilities. The GOM finished a full-scale relocation of the University of Macau to Hengqin Island in August 2014. With focused planning and support from Beijing, Hengqin could help diversify Macau’s own economy beyond gaming.

Market Entry Strategy

Macau- and Hong Kong-based agents and distributors can increase sales in Macau. Many major gaming and hotel operators in Macau maintain procurement or purchasing offices in Hong Kong.

The U.S. Commercial Service Office in Hong Kong provides customized market research and business facilitation services in Macau.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Macau can provide U.S. newcomers with orientation and various types of member support, including entre to Macau’s leading trade shows.

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