5 Chinese Companies for the Value Investor’s Watch List

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The Chinese stock market is in shambles. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 25% over the past three weeks, according to Forbes. A value investor may want to take a hard look at the region’s American-listed companies. In order to get started, investors may want to look at growth in some basic metrics, such as revenue, net income and free cash flow. Keep in mind that there is always an element of political risk in a country like the People’s Republic of China. Let’s take a look at five Chinese industrial stalwarts.

China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) provides a “full range of mobile services in all 31 provinces, autonomous regions and directly administered municipalities in Mainland China as well as in Hong Kong,” according to SEC filings. In the past five years, China Mobile grew its revenue 42%, according to data from Morningstar. However, investors may want to take note of its ability to control costs. Its operating margins went from 32.5% in fiscal 2009 to 18.3% in fiscal 2014. China Mobile’s net income in fiscal 2014 is 5% below its fiscal 2009 level. The company also experienced progressively higher capital expenditures over the past five years. Its fiscal 2014 free cash flow clocked in at 56% below its fiscal 2009 level. China Mobile is off 23% from its 52-week high, as of this writing.

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CNOOC Ltd. (NYSE: CEO) is a Chinese oil and gas company that, like most companies operating in the oil business, experienced recent top line friction due to softening oil prices. Over the longer term, the company’s revenue, net income and free cash flow expanded 161%, 104% and 61%, respectively, over the past five years. However, increasing capital expenditures have hampered free cash flow since fiscal 2010. Nonetheless, CNOOC deserves more research time. Investors in this company could really benefit if the oil and Chinese stock market were to rebound. Shares currently trade at a 37% discount from their 52-week high, as of this writing.

China Life Insurance Co. Ltd. (NYSE: LFC), as the name suggests, represents one of the largest insurance companies in China. Over the past five years, its revenue expanded 30%. However, China Life Insurance had some difficulty with costs during that time, but it is currently getting that under control. Its fiscal 2014 net income resides just 2% below its fiscal 2009 level. The company’s free cash flow in fiscal 2014 came in at 50% below its fiscal 2009 level. As of this writing, China Life Insurance trades at a 30% discount from its 52-week high.

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (NYSE: SNP) represents another Chinese oil and gas company. Again, the company experienced robust top line growth over the past five years, while profitability stalled somewhat due to the growth in operating costs. The company’s top line expanded 110% over the past five years. It saw its net income and free cash flow decline 25% and 9%, respectively, during that time. As of this writing, China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation trades at a 25% discount, compared to its 52-week high.

China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU) is a telecommunications company that saw expansion on both the top and bottom lines over the past five years. Its revenue and net income expanded 34% and 26%, respectively, over the past five years. Its free cash flow went from a negative 20.4 million yuan in fiscal 2009 to a positive 18.5 million yuan in fiscal 2014. As of this writing, the stock trades at a 34% discount from its 52-week high.

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Clearly a softening Chinese economy, which provoked the correction in its stock market, had an impact on the fundamentals of these companies. With price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios below the S&P 500, these companies represent not only a value play, but a bet on the Chinese economy as a whole. Keeping political risk in mind, if the Chinese economy recovers, then these shares will rebound, making (or recovering) money for shareholders in the process.