China Mobile (CHL) has been getting a lot of criticism lately from investors. The company has been amassing a large cash hoard of over $50 billion. This is almost double the amount of cash that Apple (AAPL) has on hand. Investors want China Mobile to return cash to investors or acquire additional assets overseas.
The company has yet to make a major investment overseas. The company's last major investment was buying a 20% percent stake in Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. The company has been reluctant to make investments overseas. Minority investors have been pushing China Mobile to consider investing in European telecos. The MSCI World Telecommunication Services Index is trading at multiples that haven't been seen since July 2009. Such low multiples are a great opportunity for China Mobile to acquire strong international assets.
Low valuations have led the telecommunications industry to have one of the most active years for mergers and acquisitions. China Mobile's M&A activities have been relatively mute with its last acquisition being Topssion, a domestic company primarily engaged in sales of handsets and devices.
Unfortunately I don't see China Mobile changing its acquisition strategy anytime soon. The company may purchase its state-owned Pakistan unit, but I don't see any other purchases beyond that. The reason for the lack of international acquisitions has to mainly do with the company being controlled by China. The Chinese government doesn't want to see that cash hoard leave the country. If you follow the company's acquisition history you will see that is apparant. I do believe the company may deploy some of that money at one point, but the speed of that happening would depend on how much pressure the company gets.
The company has experienced slowing growth with sales only gaining 7% last year. This is the first time that the company has failed to increase sales by double digits since it went IPO.
I'm bullish on China Mobile and expect that cash hoard to keep on growing. Even though I'm disappointed that the company doesn't have minority investors' interests at heart, the 4% dividend yield is very compelling. The company will have to make a move sooner or later, especially with sales growth slowing. In the meantime I don't mind collecting that safe dividend yield while I wait. I view pullbacks as buying opportunities.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in CHL over the next 72 hours.