Will China Mobile Help You Retire Rich?

Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.

If you're looking for a company with a stranglehold over the most populous nation in the country, China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) is a reasonable bet. With commanding market share over its domestic peers and roughly 650 million subscribers, China Mobile has done an excellent job of getting Chinese residents onto its mobile phone network. But can the telecom giant continue to hold off competition in the ever-growing market? Below, we'll revisit how China Mobile does on our 10-point scale.

The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.

Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.

When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:

  • Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
  • Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
  • Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
  • Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at China Mobile.


What We Want to See


Pass or Fail?

Size Market cap > $10 billion $218 billion Pass
Consistency Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years 5 years Pass
  Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years 4 years Pass
Stock stability Beta < 0.9 0.53 Pass
  Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20% (41.7%) Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 18 12.92 Pass
Dividends Current yield > 2% 3.8% Pass
  5-year dividend growth > 10% 14.2% Pass
  Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years 7 years Fail
  Payout ratio < 75% 41.8% Pass
  Total score   8 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at China Mobile last year, the company has kept its eight-point score. The mobile provider has also seen strong, share-price growth, which is especially impressive as the Chinese stock market has struggled.

China Mobile has a big chunk of the Chinese telecom market. But one concern that investors have is that China Mobile's strength comes largely from the older 2G phone market. In more advanced 3G phones, it has a much smaller 43% market share.

Interestingly, China Mobile has thrived even without the iPhone. Limitations in network compatibility forced Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) to go with competing providers China Unicom (NYSE: CHU  ) and China Telecom (NYSE: CHA  ) instead. But if Apple follows through with technology expected to allow its upcoming iPhone 5 to work on China Mobile's TD-SCDMA network, then it could open the door to huge additional growth.

Meanwhile, other handset makers are trying to get their fingers into the market, which should help boost China Mobile's position as well. Microsoft and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) have looked into bringing their own smartphone lines to China, where they could go up against Apple and other phone makers. With its dominant position, China Mobile will have significant leverage in defining the terms of all of its relationships with phone providers.

For retirees and other conservative investors, China Mobile is a relatively safe play in what has been a turbulent market lately. The telecom company certainly faces some challenges, but overall, investors looking for a stock with Chinese exposure could do far worse than choosing China Mobile.

Keep searching
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills, and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.

If you really want to retire rich, no one stock will get the job done. Instead, you need to know how to prepare for your golden years. The Motley Fool's latest special report will give you all the details you need to get a smart investing plan going, plus it reveals three smart stocks for a rich retirement. But don't waste another minute -- click here and read it today.

Add China Mobile to My Watchlist, which will aggregate our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of China Mobile, Apple, Nokia, and Microsoft, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1888755, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 5/24/2016 9:46:00 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Dan Caplinger

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 17,551.41 58.48 0.33%
S&P 500 2,061.39 13.35 0.65%
NASD 4,792.86 27.08 0.57%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

5/23/2016 4:02 PM
CHL $54.36 Down -0.06 +0.00%
China Mobile CAPS Rating: ****
AAPL $97.17 Up +0.74 +0.77%
Apple CAPS Rating: ****
CHA $47.25 Down -0.25 +0.00%
China Telecom Corp… CAPS Rating: **
CHU $10.75 Down -0.08 +0.00%
China Unicom Limit… CAPS Rating: **
NOK $5.22 Up +0.01 +0.00%
Nokia CAPS Rating: **