There can be only one Ctrip
eLong posted a small loss for the period as revenue climbed 24% higher to $8.9 million. Analysts were expecting the company to earn $0.10 per ADS on $9.6 million in revenue. Even on a more favorable adjusted basis, eLong's profitability was disappointing.
Ctrip was nicely profitable on a 45% top-line surge over the same three months. Ctrip is growing much faster on a percentage basis, even though it is three times larger than eLong.
Ctrip also showed sequential improvement from its quarter that ended in September 2006. That is another area where eLong pulled up lame, with revenue falling 5% from revenue in Q3. And that isn't going to get any better, as eLong's outlook calls for another sequential dip in revenue compared to this fourth quarter.
Remove Ctrip from the equation and eLong doesn't look too shabby. It is growing. Gross margins dipped during the quarter, but only marginally. That was the result of higher compensation for its call center employees, a decrease in non-travel revenue, and a spike in lower margin airfare bookings.
However, investors can't live in vacuums. If you believe in the potential of China's percolating travel business, faster growers can be had through Ctrip or Home Inns & Hotels
Clearly, there are plenty of ways to play China's travel boom. eLong is one way. Unfortunately for eLong shareholders, Ctrip and Home Inns are better ways.
For related Foolish articles:
- Glance into Ctrip's business.
- Our Global Gains advisors tackle the China Syndrome.
- All eyes on China as an emerging market.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a fan of China's high-margin stocks for a long time. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.