Earnings: Property In Black; E-Commerce, Video In Red

Includes: EJ, LEJU, LITB, XNET
by: Doug Young

Following last week's flood of quarterly earnings announcements by many of China's top tech names, this week many second-tier players are reporting results that are decidedly mixed. Real estate looked surprisingly strong in the earnings reports of E-House (NYSE: EJ) and its newly listed Leju (NYSE: LEJU) unit, while e-commerce and online video looked weaker in the results of LightInTheBox (NYSE: LITB) and newly listed Xunlei (Nasdaq: XNET). Whereas shares of the Internet giants showed little reaction to their results last week, most of these second-tier names showed much bigger movement this week, probably reflecting thinner trading of their stocks by more short-term buyers.

I've been relatively bearish on the real estate stocks lately, due to growing signs that China's property market is heading into a much needed correction after years of heady growth. Signs that property developers and real estate services firms weren't paying their bills to some of the online companies led to earlier sell-offs of their shares, on the belief that revenue growth might slow or even drop in the second or current quarter.

Clearly that wasn't the case for Leju, which saw its revenue jump by 63 percent in the quarter as its net income nearly tripled (company announcement) Most notable in the report was Leju's 160 percent jump in revenue from its newer e-commerce services division. Equally important, the company maintained its previous full-year revenue outlook, dampening speculation that it would suffer from unpaid bills.

Leju shares jumped 12 percent on the report, and are now up 63 percent from their IPO price a few months ago. I won't detail the separate report from E-House, which is Leju's controlling stakeholder and thus consolidates Leju's numbers into its own report. (company announcement) The trends at E-House were mostly similar though a bit more muted, which probably explains why E-House shares rose a more modest 2.2 percent after its report came out.

While real estate was in the black, online video was quickly sliding into the red as Xunlei released its maiden quarterly report following the company's long-delayed New York IPO in June. (company announcement) Most worrisome but not completely unexpected was the Xunlei's report of a $2.3 million operating loss, which marked a sharp reversal of its $6.3 million in operating profit a year earlier.

Revenue actually contracted by 2.3 percent, which isn't exactly the kind of figure investors like to see from companies in this kind of high-growth space. Xunlei did manage to report a profit on a net basis, but the other less upbeat numbers, combined with weak outlook, sparked an 8.5 percent plummet in the company's shares. With that drop, Xunlei's shares are now 13 percent below their IPO price, making them one of the few recently listed companies to trade lower than their offering prices.

Lastly there's e-commerce company LightInTheBox, which has traveled down a rocky road since its New York IPO more than a year ago. Investors were bullish earlier on the company's business model of selling Chinese goods to overseas buyers, fueling a rally for its shares. But results have looked much weaker in recent quarters, and that trend continued in its latest report.

LightInTheBox reported a $5.7 million net loss, compared with about a breakeven result a year ago. (company announcement) Its revenue grew at a so-so 24.3 percent in the quarter, though it did predict the rate would accelerate to around 37 percent in the current quarter. Still, investors didn't like the bottom line, sparking an 8 percent drop in company shares that has them now trading 33 percent below their IPO price. That sell-off does look a bit extreme in light of the positive outlook, so perhaps we could see a little upside for the company's shares in the months ahead.

Bottom line: A looming downturn for online real estate service providers could be less severe than expected based on Leju results, while Xunlei's results hint at profit challenges in the online video space.

Disclosure: None