There's More To Earnings Than Earnings

By James Brumley | August 12, 2009 AAA

While the ultimate point of any business venture is to drive income, a snapshot of one quarter's earnings alone may not paint a complete picture for a company. Here's some additional perspective on recently-announced earnings from a few key stocks.... the kind of stuff you probably won't read in the quarterly results press release.

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Mobile Telesystems OJSC (NYSE:MBT)
The glass could be half empty or half full for Russia's largest wireless service provider. Mobile Telesystems OJSC. Net income fell 14.6% last quarter, on a 23% decline in revenues. On the other hand, the $2.02 billion in sales was better than analyst's expectations of $1.98 billion. Though income was lower, the $563 million in income was better than the anticipated $541 million.

Impressive overall? I'd say so, especially considering that Virgin Mobile (NYSE:VM), MetroPCS Communications Inc. (NYSE:PCS) and a handful of other wireless stocks reported lower revenue and/or lower earnings last quarter. What wasn't as clear was the effect of currency exchange fluctuations. Had it not been for a $198 million foreign exchange gain, MBT would have only earned $365 million. Well under the $659 million earned in Q2 of 2008.

At least the wireless struggle isn't unique to the United States.

Zhongpin, Inc. (Nasdaq:HOGS)
Zhongpin is one of China's premier meat and food processing companies, just can't get over the $13 hump, despite good news. The stock moved lower after announcing that net income was up 25.9% last quarter on a 17.7% increase in revenue.

The company is still looking for full-year earnings between $1.50-1.63, which is in line with analyst estimates of $1.54 (very plausible numbers). And, if they're met, the stock will be trading at an earnings multiple of about seven, based on its current price. (For more on analyst expectations, be sure to read Analyst Forecasts Spell Disaster For Some Stocks.)

I think the company's one of the safest and smartest way to play China's growth, though the market doesn't yet seem to agree. Time solves disparities, though.

Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc. (NYSE:CCO)
Investors may be trying awfully hard to find something wrong with Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings' numbers last quarter.

Well, just to clarify, the company did lose $689 million on $692 million in revenue. Anytime a company loses as much as its very top line, you have to be worried. What the market may be overlooking is how the company also took an $812 million impairment charge. Without the charge, Clear Channel would have been profitable.

At this point I'm starting to think CCO is more of an undervalued asset than an overvalued liability.

Priceline.com Inc. (Nasdaq:PCLN)
In a nutshell, Priceline rules. Last quarter, the travel service website increased earnings by 35%, up to $1.38 per share. Revenue was up 18%. Ex items, per-share profits rang in at $2.02 - well above last year's Q2 income of $1 per share.

What you didn't hear: Considering Priceline has topped analyst estimates in each of the last four quarters, perhaps next year's full-year expected earnings of $8.51 per share is too conservative. That would represent a 15% increase over 2009's anticipated income.

Don't misunderstand - you're paying for growth. The forward-looking P/E of 17.5 translates into a PEG ratio of 1.15, which isn't that cheap. Sometimes growth is worth the price though, particularly if the growth estimates are too low.

Air Transport Services Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:ATSG)
And finally, though the pure trucking companies are struggling with earnings, the air carriers don't seem to be in quite the same dire straits. Air Transport Services Group, Inc. earned $8.1 million this past quarter, versus a loss of $526 thousand for the same quarter a year ago. Granted, last year's Q2s was weighed down by an arbitration ruling, which in total cost about $6.6 million. Even taking those costs out though, the bottom line was still up from a year earlier.

Apparently the market didn't do that math, however. ATSG shares sank 7% after the announcement was made, as investors were more concerned with the 40% dip in revenue. What was lost wasn't high margin (if any margin) revenue though. A big chunk of the lost revenue was simply last year's reimbursed fuel expenses that were added to the top line. (Read Strategies For Quarterly Earnings Season for a related reading.)

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