Healthy growth is back at China Finance Online (Nasdaq: JRJC ) -- but it may not last.
Shares of the Web-based provider of stock research for individual investors in China opened higher this morning, after the company posted substantially better than expected results.
First-quarter revenue climbed 30% to $15.2 million. Analysts expected China Finance Online's top line to climb only half as much. A small adjusted loss a year ago compares with an adjusted profit of $0.08 a share this time around. Wall Street was actually braced for a widening deficit.
What's the secret to China Finance Online's success? It's not necessarily the 31% spike in registered user accounts, because that figure is built to be incremental. The real eye-opener here is the 20% increase in active paid subscribers. There are 129,100 premium accounts, a fresh break from the stagnant rolls that China Finance Online struggled through last year.
These are dicey times for investing sites all over. TheStreet.com (Nasdaq: TSCM ) posted another quarterly loss last month. Revenue was flat, though that's the handiwork of the company's sales of Promotions.com late last year. Profitability fell at Morningstar (Nasdaq: MORN ) , and the top line would have dropped slightly if you had backed out acquisitions and foreign currency translations. The top and bottom lines also fell in Value Line's (Nasdaq: VALU ) most recent quarter.
Given the ho-hum performances of stateside investing research providers, sticking with China Finance Online seems like a better play.
Unfortunately, the current quarter may get a little bumpy. Despite obliterating Wall Street's targets, the company is sticking to its previous 2010 guidance of $2 million to $4 million in adjusted net income on $56 million to $62 million in revenue.
Fallout from the European crisis and the government's moves to cool down real estate speculation have dampened investor enthusiasm in China, according to the company.
If China Finance Online can live up to its projection of profitability, we may as well bring up its balance sheet. The yuan-rich company is stocked with $4.65 per American depositary share in cash. We're talking about far more than half of its market cap backed by its asset-rich balance sheet.
China Finance Online also continues to strike data deals with stock and futures exchanges in China. Late last year, it teamed up with China Unicom (NYSE: CHU ) to be the carrier's exclusive financial news and market data provider for its 3G mobile portal.
It may be a downer to see China Finance Online sticking to its guidance after a monster quarter, but holding its own is something that the market is apparently rewarding these days.
Would you be a buyer of investing sites here or abroad? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.