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The Best Way to Capitalize On the Chinese Film Industry

By Marshall Hargrave – Jul 9, 2014 at 8:30AM

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The film industry in China is in rapid growth mode, and the best investment isn't the stock you'd expect.

China surpassed Japan last year to become the second-largest film market in the world. The Chinese film market generated $2.7 billion at the box office, but it still has a long way to go to catch up the U.S., whose film market generated almost $11 billion last year.

For investors looking to capitalize on the Chinese film industry, there aren't a lot of options. You could try to play one of the big media giants like Walt Disney (DIS 1.27%), but it won't be a pure play on the Chinese market. The best option for investors looks to be to follow Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA) and its CEO, Rupert Murdoch, and invest in a pure-play Chinese film company.

Murdoch's investment in China
Bona Film Group (NASDAQ: BONA) is China's second-largest film production and distribution company. Twenty-First Century Fox owns 19.9% of the company. What attracted Rupert Murdoch to Bona Film Group was the company's vertically integrated business model. The company not only makes films, but distributes them as well.

Bona Film Group is posting impressive numbers. The company just released its first-quarter earnings at the end of May, which showed that revenue grew more than 30% year over year. Earnings per share came in at $0.04 and doubled the consensus estimate of only $0.02. Over the last five years, Bona has managed to grow revenue at an annualized rate of 45%. Over the next five years, analysts expect earnings to grow at an impressive annualized rate of 70%.

This year looks to be another record year for Bona Film Group. This comes as the company benefits from its Chinese New Year blockbuster film The Man from Macau. The company also received regulatory approval to distribute the foreign films Non-Stop and Pompeii. A third film, 12 Years a Slave, which won three Oscars, is in the process of getting regulatory approval.

Other ways to play film
Disney is active in the television, theme park, film, and consumer products businesses. Disney made a big move in the film business at the end of 2012 by buying Lucasfilm, which owns the Star Wars franchise. This was just the latest move in Disney's acquisition spree that has built up its film business. In 2009, it snatched up Marvel Entertainment, and in 2006, it bought animation studio Pixar.

While Bona is focused on films in China, Disney is making moves in the theme park space there. It's currently constructing a new theme park in Shanghai that's set to open before 2016. Meanwhile, Fox also has a stake in Bona, but it doesn't have quite as robust of a multi-platform strategy as Disney. It's still a major player in the entertainment business, though. Major revenue sources include films, network programming, and television, which generate 31%, 39%, and 18% of revenue, respectively.

How shares stack up
Bona Film trades at the highest P/E ratio based on next year's earnings estimates, but it's still one of the best pick's in the industry. Bona trades at a 22.4 forward P/E ratio, compared to Fox's 20 and Disney's 18.5. But, factoring in Wall Street's growth expectations for the next five years, Bona trades at a P/E to growth (PEG) ratio of only 1, compared to Fox's 2.3 and Disney's 1.5.

Bottom line
Disney is a relatively diverse player in the entertainment business, with a strong presence in the film industry. Fox is more heavily tied to TV, but the company is still diversified across various brands. However, for investors looking to play one of the fastest-growing film markets, China, Bona is worth a closer look. 

Marshall Hargrave has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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