China Mobile 1, Fear 0

Ah, pessimism and fear . how much money have you made for me over the years? I confess that I haven't made any money from China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) , since my portfolio is already overweight on overseas telecommunications, but it's been a favorite of mine for a while, and it continues to perform.

Investors may recall that the big fears last year for this huge Chinese cell-phone company concerned slowing growth and high spending needs. Well, growth is slowing some, and the company will have to spend money on new gear for the eventual rollout of its 3G product, but that doesn't mean its story no longer has appeal.

Looking at first-half results, we see that revenue rose nearly 20%, EBITDA climbed 25%, and net earnings increased 26% to a bit less than $4 billion. The company does not break out its information on a quarterly basis, but doing a little quick math suggests that profits were up about 24% in the second quarter -- not a bad result for a "slowing" company whose subscriber base is close to the entire population of the United States. Moreover, the company continues to add more than 4 million new subs -- roughly the population of the Detroit metro area -- each month.

So here you have a well-run company with a clean balance sheet in a fast-growing country, along with a nearly neutered competitor in China Unicom (NYSE: CHU  ) , which got about one-fifth of total new subs in the first half, while China Mobile got the rest. Sure, the company will have to continue to expand into less lucrative and less densely populated areas, but that doesn't mean growth will fall off a cliff.

A 50% gain in the past year makes me a little more cautious on China Mobile. That's particularly true when there are other options like Japan's NTT DoCoMo (NYSE: DCM  ) , Australia's Telstra (NYSE: TLS  ) , and New Zealand's Telecom Corp. of New Zealand (NYSE: NZT  ) trading at cheaper valuations -- though you can argue that all three deserve those relatively lower valuations. Nevertheless, while I might be somewhat more hesitant to buy China Mobile today, I wouldn't be in any great hurry to sell if I already held the shares.

For more foreign-themed Foolishness:

Telecom Corp. is aMotley Fool Income Investorselection.If you like investing in stocks that pay you back, Income Investor is for you. Try it out free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).

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10/21/2016 4:02 PM
CHL $58.94 Down -0.28 -0.47%
China Mobile CAPS Rating: ****
CHU $12.04 Down -0.10 -0.82%
China Unicom CAPS Rating: **
DCM $24.10 Down -0.55 -2.23%
NTT DoCoMo CAPS Rating: ***
NZTCY $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
Telecom Corp of Ne… CAPS Rating: *****