We're nearly a decade removed from the glory days of Vipshop Holdings (VIPS 0.27%), but a couple of analysts are feeling better about the stock after the fourth-quarter report it delivered Thursday. The Chinese online discounter of brand-name apparel and accessories beat expectations, even if its numbers may not seem all that impressive on their own.
Investment group CLSA boosted its rating on Vipshop from outperform to buy, encouraged by the quarterly beat and signs of recovering demand. In a climate of global inflation and an iffy economy in which shoppers are more focused on looking for bargains, Vipshop -- with its low prices and access to cheap supply -- seems ripe to succeed. CLSA's analyst lifted his price target on the shares from $11 to $17.
Meanwhile, UBS upgraded the e-commerce player from neutral to buy on the earnings news. UBS has a price target of $17.50 on Vipshop. Based on those firms' new price targets, the shares have a near-term upside of 25% to 28%.
Let's go shopping
Last year was special for Vipshop -- and not in a good way. Revenue declined by 7% in the fourth quarter, and by 12% for all of 2022. That ended a run of at least a dozen years of top-line growth. It's "at least" 12 years of improving revenues because that's how far back the public financial reports go, given its 2012 IPO. Sales may very well have risen every year in the company's history until it proved mortal in 2022.
The $4.6 billion that Vipshop generated in revenue in Q4 was narrowly ahead of the $4.59 billion consensus prediction of Wall Street pros. The beat was better on the other end of the income statement, where adjusted net income rose 24% for the quarter and 14% for all of 2022. The $0.53 a share it served up in adjusted earnings for the seasonally potent fourth quarter was comfortably ahead of the $0.47 a share in net income that analysts had been modeling for.
Bottom-line beats aren't unusual here. As bad as 2022 may have been on the top line, Vipshop managed to top profit expectations every single quarter. The stock also trounced the market, soaring 62%. Investors didn't lose any sleep over the end of Vipshop's revenue growth streak, but last year's share price surge paled in comparison to what shareholders scored a decade ago.
Vipshop was a market darling early in its publicly traded life, more than doubling in each of its first three years on the market. To be fair, revenue was also growing at triple-digit percentage rates at the time. Now, business growth has stalled. Vipshop expects its top line to come in flat to up 5% for the current quarter, and analysts forecast mid-single-digit percentage growth in 2023 as well as 2024.
The shares still seem attractively priced right now, and that's before considering that two analysts just came to the same conclusion. Vipshop has been consistently profitable over the years, and despite the stock's big jump last year, it's trading for just 9 times this year's projected earnings.
There will always be extra risks with investing in international stocks in general, and Chinese equities in particular. Vipshop's cash-rich balance sheet and low revenue and earnings multiples would make it a no-brainer stock pick if it were a domestic retailer, but it may still make sense for risk-tolerant investors who are comfortable with the volatility of China-based stocks.