It may not be fashionable to buy international tech stocks these days, and that's painfully true when it comes to the former highfliers out of China. The world's most populous nation has produced some of the brightest dot-com darlings over the past decade, but the enthusiasm has been waning as China's slowing economy and escalating trade tensions weigh on investor interest and company fundamentals.
Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU), Momo (NASDAQ: MOMO), and Vipshop (NYSE: VIPS) are among the once-scorching Chinese internet investments that have grown cold lately. It doesn't have to end this way. There are catalysts on the horizon that could lift all three of these out-of-favor stocks back up, and if the growth investors don't want them, the value investors will have to do.
Image source: Vipshop Holdings.
China's leading search engine is struggling these days. Revenue growth slowed to 6% in its latest quarter, and that's adjusted for businesses that it has unloaded over the past year. Growth at its spun-off subsidiary that specializes in video streaming and other new initiatives is covering for declines in its bread-and-butter online advertising, but even that can't last forever.
Baidu stock has shed 63% of its value since peaking 15 months ago. A good chunk of the sell-off is well earned. There's a price to pay for Baidu's slowing growth and decaying profitability, and that comes in the form of a discount to its once-lofty valuation. However, we also find Baidu at a historic low in terms of price-to-revenue multiples. The cash-rich icon is trading at an enterprise value that is less then twice its trailing top-line results. Net income is currently depressed, but it's fetching 16 times next year's projected earnings. Its high-margin search business will bounce back once there are signs that the China slowdown is bottoming out, freeing marketers to ramp up their ad budgets again.
Momo commands a sixth the market cap of Baidu, but it still packs a punch. The social discovery and online dating specialist is scoring with a growing audience that pays up for live video broadcasting and virtual gifting. Revenue and adjusted earnings per share rose 32% and 33%, respectively, in Tuesday morning's second-quarter report.
China can be pretty restrictive when it comes to social hubs online, and things don't get any easier when outsiders call it "the Tinder of China" despite all of its moving parts. The bottom line here is that the bottom line is solid. Momo is now trading for less than 14 times trailing adjusted earnings. Look out to 2020 as we did with Baidu and the multiple drops to 10.
If we go from cheap in Baidu to cheaper in Momo, then we may as well go all the way down to cheapest with Vipshop Holdings. Online flash sales of brand-name apparel may not seem like a hotbed for growth, but Vipshop's pulse on the fashion-forward Chinese consumer has helped it grow over the years. There are now 33.1 million active Vipshop customers, 11% more than it was serving a year earlier.
Revenue rose 10% in its latest quarter, snapping a streak of 11 consecutive quarters of decelerating top-line growth. Adjusted earnings soared 84%, trouncing analyst expectations the way it has consistently done by double-digit-percentage margins for more than a year. Vipshop can be had now for less than 10 times this year's earnings and less than 9 times next year's target. It's not just the clothing being sold at Vipshop that's cheap.
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