Going the Distance With Philippine Long Distance

Every once in a while you stumble across a stock that just seems too cheap. You recalculate your numbers a couple of times, but the valuation of the stock still looks out of whack with the current price. Such has often been the case with me and Philippine Long Distance (NYSE: PHI  ) . I've been a fan of this company for a long time, and owned the stock a few times, and it never quite seems to get its due from the larger investing world.

If you look at second quarter/first half earnings, I suppose you can see part of the problem. Revenue grew all of 2%, and even if you credit back the impact of foreign exchange, we're still not talking about much top-line growth. It certainly doesn't get much easier as you move down the income statement. Operating income? Down 11%. Pre-tax income? Down 21%. The "good" news is that core net income (which readjusts for foreign exchange and some unusual items) was up 6% (less than 4% per share) and EBITDA was likewise up about 6%.

Thing is, there doesn't need to be an abundance of growth for this story to work. Even granting that the fixed line business is a dinosaur, there's still potential in the broadband space; overall broadband subs increased 19% sequentially, with a 49% sequential jump in wireless broadband customers. Granted, we're talking about only 167,000 people, but this is certainly higher-margin growth.

There were also encouraging signs in the wireless business. Revenue growth was a bit more than 5%, but EBITDA grew 9%, and subscriber acquisition costs appear to be headed in the right direction.

I accept that many (if not most) emerging market telco companies don't always get their full due unless and until their particular country becomes a hot-money destination. I've seen it with China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) among others. And I also realize that phone companies in more developed economies like NTT DoCoMo (NYSE: DCM  ) , Deutsche Telekom (NYSE: DT  ) , and Motley Fool Income Investor pick France Telecom (NYSE: FTE  ) have their attractions. But with what appears to be a very attractive valuation in a growing emerging economy, I think PLDT is still worth considering as a buy.

Dial in to more Foolish takes on international telco:

France Telecom isMotley Fool Income Investorrecommendation. To discover more promising stocks with dynamic dividends, sign up today for a free30-day guest pass.

Fool contributorStephen Simpsonhas no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).


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