Two Good China Plays

07/10/2007 12:00 am EST


Jim Trippon

Editor-in-Chief, China Stock Digest

James Trippon, editor of China Stock Digest, says a well-known Hong Kong conglomerate and an upstart mainland Chinese online job-search firm offer good value.

Hutchison Whampoa (OTC: HUWHY) is a giant Hong Kong-based multinational corporation that fits beautifully into our value-oriented model portfolio. The company's activities are focused on a variety of core businesses: ports and related services, property and hotels, retail, energy, infrastructure, finance and investments, and telecommunications.

The company is best known as a container terminal operator, holding interests in 45 ports in 23 countries. It holds a rental portfolio of approximately 16 million square feet of office, commercial, industrial, and residential premises, principally in Hong Kong, as well as interests in a number of joint-venture developments in Mainland China and selective overseas markets.

A.S. Watson & Company, Ltd. is the company's retail arm with more than 7,500 highly diversified retail stores in 36 markets. Its investments in energy and infrastructure are principally in Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, Australia, Canada, and the UK.

Hutchison Whampoa is ideally positioned to profit from the enormous growth in all of its fields of interest in mainland China. Furthermore, the company has a unique advantage in acting as an intermediary with the mainland in shipping, finance, telecommunications, energy and a host of other capacities.

Remarkably, this company has an estimated P/E of [less than 9x], and its estimated earnings per share for 2007 is $6.22. (The ADRs last traded around $53, but the stock has risen 10% over the last two trading days in Hong Kong-Editor.) Last year Hutchison Whampoa generated a 13% gain for investors and a trailing-12-month dividend of 2.22%. The current relative dividend yield is 1.24%.

We see Hutchison Whampoa as a solid long-term value buy.

We think of the oddly named company 51job (NASDAQ: JOBS) as a firm something like on steroids. 51job connects millions of Chinese job seekers with tens of thousands of companies through a variety of services. In addition to its Internet portal, the company publishes 51job Weekly, a leading employment paper distributed in more than 23 major cities throughout China.

Although 51job provides services to both employers and job seekers, it derives most of its revenues from employers for placing job advertisements in 51job Weekly and

51job was a hot IPO when it hit the market almost three years ago, but it fell from its early peak of almost $55 a share when realistic earnings expectations set in. The company has been rising through 2007 as its profit picture has improved. (The ADRs closed just below $20 on Monday-Editor.)

The company beat Wall Street earnings estimates in its most recent quarter, [and] 51job is also predicting increased earnings per share in the coming quarter.

With a market capitalization of $517 million and a forward P/E of 25.5x the company is priced for growth. It's in competition with the TOM Group, another of the high-performing Chinese companies we're watching, and has so far proven its ability to survive and thrive in a highly competitive field.

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