Sohu's the One to Beat in China

Shares of Sohu.com (Nasdaq: SOHU  ) climbed 5% higher yesterday, after the Chinese dot-com delivered better than expected third-quarter results.

Revenue growth accelerated during the period, soaring 28% to $173.2 million. Sohu's brand advertising, online gaming, and search businesses all posted year-over-year gains of 30% or better. Sohu's wireless revenue was the lone laggard, off by 8%, but we've known that its mobile value-added services model has been dying for awhile now. Several years ago, wireless was Sohu's bread and butter, but now it accounts for a mere 8% slice of the revenue mix pie.

The news gets even sweeter on the way down to the bottom line, where earnings shot up 41% to $1.07 a share. Analysts were banking on a profit of $0.99 a share on $167.6 million in revenue.

Hopefully investors in Shanda Games (Nasdaq: GAME  ) , Perfect World (Nasdaq: PWRD  ) , Giant Interactive (NYSE: GA  ) , and NetEase.com (Nasdaq: NTES  ) were paying attention. They will be reporting in the coming weeks, and Sohu's performance in online gaming is encouraging. Revenue growth is accelerating. Sohu's significant skin in this game -- the result of its majority stake in Changyou (Nasdaq: CYOU  ) -- posted an impressive 30% top-line spurt over last year's showing.

Likely taking a jab at the ridiculous valuation of recent IPO Youku.com (Nasdaq: YOKU  ) , Sohu points out that its share of online video has grown from 3.4% to 13.4% over the past year. Investors in profitless Youku may be wondering why they're not riding the more diversified and profitable Sohu instead.

The Chinese new-media darling's guidance is also encouraging. It's true that targeting revenue between $164.5 million to $169.5 million for the current quarter represents a small sequential dip. Margins look strong, though, with Sohu's bottom-line outlook of $1.03 a share to $1.08 a share hinting at a healthier performance on the bottom line. Either way, the pros were already braced for a seasonal dip. They figured that Sohu would only earn $0.95 a share on $161.6 million in revenue for the current quarter.

Wrong again, Wall Street. After a rare miss during the previous year's fourth quarter Sohu has rattled off four consecutive market-thumping results.

Looking good, Sohu.

Are you buying Chinese dot-coms these days? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

NetEase.com and Sohu.com are Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a fan of China’s high-margin online stocks for a long time. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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