China Finance Online
You'd think a company that makes a living on subscriptions to its stock research would be at the mercy of a deflated market. After all, the Chinese stock-market data provider couldn't have asked for a rougher climate. The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index suffered a 34% decline during the first quarter, the market's sharpest slide in 15 years.
But things haven't turned out that way. Revenue soared 177% to $11.1 million during the quarter, exceeding the company's initial guidance. Earnings per American depositary shares nearly quadrupled to $0.15 a share, or a whopping $0.26 per share on an adjusted basis.
China Finance Online closed out the year with 9.8 million registered users, 49% higher than the millions to whom it fed market research a year ago. Perhaps more impressively, the number of active paid subscribers rose by 138%. Subscription fees from individual investors make up 87% of the company's revenue mix.
CFO's success makes sense, the more you think about it. Last year was crazy, with neophytes throwing money at the market simply because it was rising. There was no need for due diligence when you could make money by just running with the stampede. Now that investing in China is more a learned art than a mania, and things like valuations and fundamentals actually matter, the appeal of China Finance Online's Stockstar.com and JRJ.com websites is greater than ever.
The U.S. may not enjoy similar trends -- with market-research websites such as TheStreet.com
CFO's role in market enlightenment also has its benefits. Back in January, the company announced that it will team up with China Telecom
Things are going so well for CFO that it even raised the low end of its full-year guidance last night. China Finance Online is now looking to post adjusted earnings of $1.09 to $1.26 a share, on $56 million to $61 million in revenue.
Even with this morning's pop, China Finance Online is trading for just 20-24 times its projected profitability. That's a lot less than the multiple that online leaders in China, such as Baidu.com
In other words, China Finance Online still has a reasonable valuation relative to its headier growth rate. As fate would have it, that's a welcome attribute that today's Chinese investors are starting to appreciate.
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