Chinese stocks probably aren't on many investors' shortlist after the coronavirus pandemic devastated that country's economy in recent months. But the massive Asian nation is showing signs of being on the road to recovery. Official statistics indicate that China's manufacturing activity returned to expansion in March. And the country's transportation industry may soon follow.
Chinese companies have unique risks due to trade tensions and general geopolitical uncertainty. But now may be a good time to scoop up these stocks while prices are still low. For instance, here are three Chinese stocks with the potential to benefit from a Chinese economic rebound in April. Two of them, Trip.com Group (TCOM 0.69%) and China Eastern Airlines (ZNH -2.12%), are bets on China's transportation recovery. The other, Alibaba Group (BABA -1.22%), is a bet on improving consumer sentiment in the country.
Trip.com Group is the Chinese answer to Expedia Group's various travel-related websites, including Orbitz. The company is a travel service provider that specializes in ticketing, reservations, and tours as well as aggregating hotel and transport information. Trip started 2020 on a strong footing. Fourth-quarter 2019 revenue was up 15% (from $4.5 billion to $5.1 billion) year over year. And net income soared from $161.7 million to $1 billion in the same period.
But the coronavirus pandemic put a massive dent in Trip's short-term outlook as governments around the world instituted travel restrictions to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease.
Trip.com has underperformed the wider market in 2020, declining by 25.9% year to date compared to a 13.4% decline in the S&P 500. But now that most of the coronavirus-related bad news looks priced in -- and the Chinese economy is getting back online -- the stock is an excellent way to bet on a rebound. Trip's CEO Jane Sun believes the Chinese domestic travel market could get back to normal within months. If she is right, the stock could be set to surge.
2. China Eastern Airlines
China Eastern Airlines is China's second-largest carrier by passenger numbers, just under its rival, China Southern Airlines. The company mainly transports passengers out of its hub in Shanghai to domestic and international destinations such as Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, New York, and Los Angeles. It should come as no surprise to hear that the coronavirus pandemic battered China Eastern's stock. Shares are down 33.5% percent year to date compared to a 13.4% decline in the S&P 500 over that same period.
With first-quarter earnings expected on May 5, the company will likely report significant revenue declines due to U.S. and European travel bans on flights originating in China. But the Chinese travel industry, which makes up most of China Eastern's sales, is already showing signs of life.
According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the nation's aviation regulator, domestic flights in the country increased by 20.5% in March. And while China Eastern predicts "significant uncertainty" for the full year of 2020, Asia is still one of the biggest growth markets for aviation. And China Eastern's rock-bottom valuation of just 0.3 times sales makes the stock a good way for risk-tolerant investors to bet on a Chinese recovery.
3. Alibaba Group
For some investors, the Chinese transportation industry is too risky right now, and that's OK. The country offers other opportunities in tech and e-commerce. Alibaba Group is one of the most compelling. Alibaba is China's answer to Amazon with its massive e-commerce platform and forays into cloud computing and digital media. Unlike most China-based stocks, Alibaba has outperformed the wider market with shares only falling 7.4% year-to-date compared to a 13.4% decline in the S&P 500 over the same period.
Alibaba entered 2020 on a strong footing with better-than-expected fiscal 2020 third-quarter results (Alibaba's third quarter ends Dec. 31). Sales soared 38% from $17.1 billion to $23.2 billion, and net income increased from $4.5 billion to $7.2 billion year over year.
Alibaba is unique because, unlike the other companies mentioned on this list, its fiscal third-quarter ends when the calendar year does. That means the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic will show up on its fiscal fourth-quarter results, which are expected to come out on May 20. Alibaba didn't guide for the fourth quarter, but the company's diversified business model should help shield it from virus-related shocks and set it up to benefit from a rebound in the Chinese economy.