Man, you'd think a company worth nearly $200 billion could make it a little easier for us to get the news.
Investors accustomed to earnings press releases will find no such luxury when trying to get in touch with the latest financial results from China Mobile
Operating revenues jumped 19.5% year over year, while shareholder profit advanced 22.3% to 17.6 billion RMB. That's about $2.3 billion, if you're wondering about the greenbacks.
The stock's decline today may have something to do with the figures behind that headline-worthy growth. Average revenue per user per month dropped from 93 to 85 RMB, mirroring the drop in average revenue per minute. But perhaps that's to be expected when you've already got more than 316 million subscribers, and you have to start fishing outside the pond where the fish spend freely. The company admits that its 11.9% subscriber growth consists of "low-end users," but readers should also note that the uptick in users of mobile data services (at more than 12%) is even better than the overall net subscriber pickup.
While getting information from China Mobile can be a bit of a pain, its investment thesis isn't as tough to grasp. Whereas AT&T
As large as it is, China Mobile has plenty of room to grow. But at what price?
I don't say this often regarding Chinese stocks these days, but China Mobile still looks like a decent long-term bet at today's prices. Sure, China Mobile will see margin pressure from increased signups of rural users, and perhaps increased mobile competition from stagnating fixed-line peers like China Netcom
Also, I doubt the 20% growth thing holds for much longer. Still, I believe it should be able to eke out mid-teens growth for the near future. Given its ability to generate free cash flow at about 24.5% of revenues, I think the stock is worth more like $55 a share. Those interested in Chinese stocks that actually earn consistent cash might therefore take today's market pessimism as a bit of a buying opportunity.
Seth Jayson is a member of the Motley Fool Global Gains team, with an appreciation for overseas telcos that produce wads of green. A free trial will give you a look at one he recommended a few weeks back.