Since I first mentionedCentral European Media Enterprises (CME)
I don't know about the stock, but the business is still looking good. Revenue grew 45% for the fourth quarter, and operating income more than doubled.
Using the company's own non-GAAP standard of "segment EBITDA," CME grew by 40% for the December quarter. While admittedly a bit confusing, the segment EBITDA metric offers investors a chance to ascertain the profitability of the company's businesses without the impact of corporate operating or amortization costs, or foreign currency movements.
Importantly, there were no major pockets of weakness across the company's stations. The company's Croatia business spent most of 2004 in cleanup mode, but EBITDA growth in markets like Romania, the Slovak Republic, and the Ukraine was very strong.
That's not to say that the quarter (or year) was entirely perfect. The company produced negative free cash flow for 2004, and management expects results for 2005 to be hurt at least somewhat by higher programming expenses.
The CME business model still appears to have a lot of potential leverage. The advertising markets in Eastern Europe, though not in their infancy, are certainly not mature, and the company's growing profile should give it increasing leverage with large consumer-goods advertisers that want to expand into those countries.
What's more, the closing of the acquisition of TV Nova in the Czech Republic will be a major event for the company. TV Nova, on its own, is larger than CME in terms of revenue and considerably more profitable. Not only will adding TV Nova significantly broaden CME's reach and revenue base, but the synergies with the company's Slovak operations should be meaningful as well.
Valuation at this point is the trickier part. The stock trades at close to 100 times trailing continuing earnings and nearly eight times trailing sales. Even strong peers like Univision
Although CME might not be the table-pounding buy it once was, Fools holding these shares should probably not sell them just because the stock appears expensive. After all, organic growth and expanding market potential isn't always easy to come by in the stock market.
Get smart about the boob tube with these Foolish works:
- Univision's Got the Eyeballs
- Cloudy Year at Clear Channel
- Bringing Baywatch to Central Europe
- Time Warner Takes Its Time
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned.