Outside of being one of the first Chinese stocks listed alphabetically, most investors aren't familiar with 51job
It's a pity, because they're missing one of the more consistent Chinese growth stocks.
51job got its start as a publisher of weekly job listings in city newspapers, but these days it's stopping the presses and embracing the scalable ways of cyberspace.
Business is booming for the online recruiter. Revenue in its latest quarter climbed 26% to $53.8 million, and that's with a 31% decline in its print business. 51job is deliberately scaling back its 51job Weekly print missives, and now has a hand in just 14 city newspapers.
The 26% top-line spurt masks the more impressive 49% surge in the online recruitment business that now makes up 62% of the company's revenue mix. If you think there are chunkier margins to be had in running a hot employment website than in selling print ads, you're right. Adjusted earnings soared 55% to $0.59 a share. Analysts were only expecting a profit of $0.53 a share on $50.9 million in revenue.
51job isn't the only company cranking out job listings. It competes with China Career Builder, Monster's
After swooning alongside many other Chinese growth stocks, 51job is now trading for just 21 times this year's earnings and 17 times next year's projected profitability. This is comparable to the employment enablers closer to home. TrueBlue
The growth will continue, as 51job sees an adjusted profit of $0.58 a share to $0.61 a share on $56.4 million to $58 million in revenue, comfortably ahead of where analysts are camping out.
51job is one of the more all-weather investments in China. Yes, it's an Internet stock, but it's not the kind of dot-com that government would crack down on. It's in the country's economic interests to see employers promote their openings, and that's just what 51job is doing. It now has dedicated sales coverage in 75 Chinese cities.
It's working. It may only have a 17% increase in employers using the site to fill openings over the past year, but the average revenue per unique employer has climbed 28% in that time.
Even in this global lull, China's economy continues to grow faster than most of its Western peers. You may not know a lot about 51job, but bring it in for a portfolio interview. You'll probably like what you see.
If you want to follow the online recruitment scene in China, consider adding 51job to My Watchlist.