Why This Chinese Internet Company Is Losing in 2012

Less than two weeks ago, we crossed the halfway point for 2012. Checking and worrying about your stocks on a daily basis is never a good idea -- but it's worth checking in with your holdings every six months or so.

When it comes to Chinese Internet stocks, the story has been mixed. Below, I'll explain why Sina (Nasdaq: SINA  ) has lost to the market, and what investors need to know moving forward. The company runs an Internet portal, and a micro-blogging site akin to Twitter. Before diving, though, let's take a look at how the company has fared versus the S&P 500 in 2012.

SPY Total Return Price Chart

SPY Total Return Price data by YCharts

As you can see, what was a solid market-beating start to the year has transformed into a steady decline for Sina's stock. Let's dig deeper to see why this is the case.

American Equivalent Twitter
Market Cap $3.2B
P/E N/A
P/FCF 1,660*
Revenue Growth (mrq) 6%
Earnings Growth (mrq) N/A

Source: SEC filings, Yahoo! Finance. N/A = Not available because of negative earnings or free cash flow. *Using 2011 free cash flow numbers.

With numbers like this and a currently unprofitable business, you might be left wondering why Sina shot up earlier this year in the first place.

The first thing to recognize is that Sina, like China's social networking giant Renren (NYSE: RENN  ) , was a favorite of investors getting caught up in the Facebook (Nasdaq: FB  ) IPO hype. Of course, we all know how that went -- and how unwarranted such a pop really was.

When earnings came out in February, the underlying business was showing a mixed bag. Though the company met expectations, its outlook caused investors to second guess the direction the company was headed. A pair of investments in Chinese video sharing company Toudu (Nasdaq: TUDO  ) and apparel e-tailer Mecox Lane have also been unsuccessful.

More importantly for the long-term prospects of the company, CEO Charles Chao stated that Sina would be able to start meaningfully monetizing its Twitter-esque Weibo service that has over 324 million users. Three months later, Chao said response to advertising on Weibo was encouraging, but the possibility of government intervention in the service still looms large.

Other than worries about government censorship, the biggest drag on Sina's stock these days is concerns regarding the slowed growth in China. Only time will tell if we're in for a soft-landing, or the crash-and-burn variety.

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Fool contributor Brian Stoffel does not own shares in any company mentioned in this article. You can follow him on Twitter, where he goes by TMFStoffel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Sina. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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