If you're looking for a smart play on China's booming economy, 51job
Shares of the want ads disseminator soared nearly 13% on Friday after posting yet another blowout quarter.
51job began as a print distributor of job listings, wedging its regional 51job Weekly publications into as many local newspapers in China as possible. It has gone on to evolve into a leading provider of Web-based recruitment, where margins are even better.
Its latest quarter is better than it appears to be on the surface. Revenue climbed 28% to $49.6 million, surpassing the $47.9 million that Wall Street was targeting. 51job was able to grow despite reducing the number of 51job Weekly editions it's cranking out.
Yes, the company went from putting out 20 regional editions during last year's first quarter to just 16 51job Weekly inserts this time around. It's now down to just 15 publications after bowing out of Kunming last month. The end result is that the print revenue that once defined this company shrank by nearly 7%. The good news here is that it's generating 31% more in revenue per page it's putting out, explaining why its top line didn't take a brutal hit here as it scaled back.
This brings us to online recruitment services, soaring 58% to $26.4 million. This now commands more than half of 51job's revenue, and the obvious cost efficiencies of cyberspace over the printing press are paying off on the way down to the bottom line.
Adjusted earnings soared 78% to $0.52 a share. Analysts were asleep at the $0.39 a share mark.
51job isn't the only company in this niche. China Career Builder and Monster's
The near term is going to get even better. 51job expects to generate an adjusted profit of $0.49 a share to $0.52 a share for the current quarter on $49.6 million to $51.2 million in revenue. Analysts were only banking on a profit of $0.44 a share. The pros were perched on $52.8 million in revenue. A company's guidance coming up short on the top line often triggers a selling frenzy, but not this time. The market understands that 51job is scaling back on its lower margin print business to key in on the more lucrative online recruitment angle.
51job's stock has soared 163% since I recommended it to Rule Breakers newsletter service subscribers this past summer. I've been drawn to consumer-facing companies in China that will thrive without the risk of government intervention. A job listings promoter fits the profile. The Chinese government will want 51job to succeed. I have also recently recommended quick-service eatery operator Country Style Cooking
They're in the right place at the right time, serving the needs of individuals. Hopefully they will all follow 51job's path to higher -- not hire -- ground.
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