On almost any level that you care to examine, the media business is weird. It's full of outsized personalities with egos to match, and subject to the fickle whims of taste. Nevertheless, you can make quite a bit of money pandering to people's desire to be passively entertained.
Cynical as that may sound, I'm actually a fan of well-run media enterprises, and I've long been interested in Central European Media Enterprises
Extreme growth (at least on the top line) has been the story here for a while, and this fourth quarter was no different. Reported revenue was up 134%, and operating income nearly quadrupled. Segment EBITDA was also quite strong, growing 130% over last year's level.
It's certainly fair to observe that this quarter's performance was inflated by the acquisition of a station in the Czech Republic. But after stripping out that revenue, net revenue growth still reached roughly 34%. The company's four core territories (Romania, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, and Ukraine) saw revenue increase 24% and EBITDA go up 38%, even though performance in the Slovak Republic was soft.
Although the structure of the company is a little weird, and there are plenty of risks from economic, political, and legal developments in the six countries, I like the overall picture here. The company is No. 1 in three of its markets and No. 2 in two others. And while these countries, as a group, may not be the most prosperous or fastest-growing in the world, they are getting better.
These shares certainly aren't dirt cheap, but I also don't think they're all that expensive relative to the company's potential for growth. This stock's history suggests that investors can credibly hope for another swoon at some point. So long as the cause of that swoon isn't too serious, it could be a good opportunity to pick up shares in this fast-growing (yet still underfollowed) emerging media company.
For more narrowcast Foolishness:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).