Investment Idea: Sina
One such company I have been eyeing for some time is Sina (SINA), the leading Chinese Internet portal. (Disclosure: I'm long and considering buying more shares.) A long list of positives attract me to this company:
* Long-term economic growth of China: 9% annual GDP growth may be slowing to 7%, but China is still the fastest growing economy in the world and has many years of growth ahead as it transitions from a managed to a market economy;
* Chinese Internet usage: Projections are that in 2005 or 2006, China will have more Internet users than any other country, and that will be when penetration is still only 15% or so;
* Market leader: Sina is the most popular Chinese Internet portal among the field including Sohu, NetEase and Tom Online. As market leader, Sina is favored by major players (note recent deals with Yahoo for auctions, NCsoft for games, Microsoft for Outlook SMS) seeking a partner in China;
* Summer Olympics: Over the next three years, the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics will attract more attention to China, and Sina should benefit from more advertising revenue and growth as a result;
* Currency revaluation: The U.S., Japanese and other governments have been pressuring China to remove the peg of the RMB (currently said to the undervalued by 40%) to the dollar. While revaluation may be unlikely to occur this year and could wreak havoc on the Chinese economy when it does occur, profits from operations in China will see a windfall gain from appreciation of the RMB when translated into dollars;
* Low PEG: Analysts' estimates show 5-year projected earnings growth of 37% annually for Sina (vs. 11% for the S&P 500). Currently trading at a forward PE of 17 ($25.57 close, $1.47 Dec-2005 earnings estimate), Sina's PEG ratio is less than 0.5!;
* Upside: Analysts' average 1-year target price is $37, which would give about 50% upside if realized.
What's the downside? Well, anything is possible--maybe an earnings miss, increased competition and pricing pressure, loss of market leadership, a significant and protracted economic slowdown, tighter government controls, more insider selling, accounting problems. . . . Yet, given the robust growth and momentum of Sina's business and management's track record of positive earnings surprises in each of the past four quarters, it seems unlikely that a disaster in near. I gauge downside as being around last summer's low of $20 (PE of 13) and upside as high as $50 (PE of 35). From the current trading level of $25, this gives an attractive upside-downside ratio of 5:1.
While profit is never guaranteed in equity investing, at current price levels I am willing to make an educated bet on the long-term growth, profitability and success of Sina. A safe way to play is to check our investment thesis against the upcoming 2004Q4 earnings release (should be around Feb. 1), before loading up the truck, as they say.