One of the market's most unheralded Chinese dot-com darlings steps up to deliver fresh financials this week. NetEase (NASDAQ:NTES) isn't a name many investors are familiar with, largely because the appeal of its PC and mobile games rests largely on gamers in China. However, NetEase has proved to be one of the biggest winners out of the world's most populous nation among the stocks trading on stateside exchanges.
Expectations are high. Analysts see revenue of $1.57 billion for the fourth quarter, up 37% since the prior year. It's an aggressive bar, but NetEase grew its top line at a 38% clip last time out, and 37% in revenue growth would be the online speedster's weakest growth in more than two years.
Wall Street pros are holding out for an equally impressive bottom line. The $3.40 a share analysts are modeling is 43% ahead of the prior year's fourth-quarter showing. That's another bar that may seem to be raised high, but NetEase has a habit of barreling through net income expectations. NetEase has topped analyst earnings estimates consistently over the past year.
Playing more than games
NetEase has been one of the market's biggest winners over the past decade. NetEase stock has skyrocketed 2,106% -- a 22-bagger -- since being recommended to Motley Fool Rule Breakers subscribers in late 2004.
NetEase isn't perfect. The stock took a hit after a mixed showing in NetEase's third quarter. The last analyst to chime in on the stock -- Bhavtosh Vajpayee at Bernstein -- initiated coverage on the stock with an "underperform" rating last month. He slapped a $200 price on the stock, suggesting 23% of downside from current levels.
Meanwhile, the other two Wall Street pros to update their opinions on NetEase last month -- CLSA and Standpoint Research -- upgraded the stock. NetEase is also making its own luck, aggressively buying back stock in a move that improves profitability on a per-share basis.
NetEase shares aren't exactly cheap, fetching 21 times trailing earnings and less than 18 times this new year's estimate. However, the company's revenue and earnings are growing faster than that. There are risks involved when one invests in China, of course. Gaming is also a very fickle niche, though NetEase has managed to keep its popularity growing over the past decade.
There's a lot riding on Wednesday's report. NetEase stock has taken a hit in three of the past four quarters, despite posting better-than-expected earnings. NetEase will need a blowout report if it wants to revisit last year's all-time highs, proving most of the analysts covering the stock right in the process.