Yesterday's earnings report out of Sohu.com
For the Chinese dot-com, fourth-quarter revenue climbed 12% to $135.8 million, with non-GAAP profitability clocking in at $0.92 a share. The results were within the ballpark of analyst expectations.
Sohu's lukewarm success was fairly predictable. Advertising revenue rose an uninspiring 2% year over year, once again propped up by a 21% boost in online gaming -- which now accounts for 52% of total revenue. Growth decelerated on both fronts, though that isn't entirely problematic.
The real troublesome nuggets in Sohu's report are the declines in revenue, earnings, and advertising revenue compared with the previous quarter. It won't get any better in the near term, with continued sequential weakness in all three areas.
Even the company's mobile-delivered content business -- which seemed to be staging a renaissance earlier in the fiscal year -- was dealt a huge blow in November when China Mobile
Display advertising specialists Sohu and SINA
The good news for Sohu investors is that the company's balance sheet is stacked with nearly $14.50 a share in cash. The company also has a majority stake in its Changyou.com
It's not perfect. Cashing out on Changyou would be tricky and potentially taxable, unless it is simply spun out to investors. The move would also leave Sohu with its lackluster brand advertising business and fading mobile services. Hopefully Sohu has learned from the market's reaction to Focus Media Holding
Value investors probably wouldn't have it any other way, though. As long as the fundamentals remain sound and the sequential declines don't morph into year-over-year declines, Sohu remains a reasonable growth stock with a value-magnetic earnings multiple in the pre-teens.
There is value in China. You just need to know where to look.
Given the escalating political tension between China and the United States, is it still a good idea to invest in Chinese stocks? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a fan of China's high-margin online stocks for a long time. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.