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China Mobile: The Largest Cell Phone Provider in the World

May 29, 2012 | About:
gurufocus

Street Authority

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It’s the largest cell phone provider in the world... It has more customers than AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and Sprint (S) combined. In fact, with 650 million subscribers, this company has twice as many customers as the United States has people.

But I doubt you've ever heard of it...

The company I'm talking about is China Mobile (CHL), China's largest cell-phone provider.

Now before you dismiss this as another risky emerging-market growth stock... let's see the facts.

China mobile is the world's largest wireless telecommunications company with more than 650 million subscribers. The company controls about two-thirds of the total Chinese mobile phone market and about 45% of the nation's third-generation (3G) mobile data market.

In other words, this is a dominant company. With a $200 billion market cap and $84 billion in annual revenue, China Mobile is just as big as the leading U.S. cell-phone service provider, AT&T.

But unlike AT&T, China Mobile has a lot more room for growth.

In the United States, more than 100% of the population owns a mobile phone. Even other markets including Brazil, Russia, Turkey and South Africa have mobile penetration rates of more than 100%.

CHL-pq.pngIn China, that number sits at just 67%...

As Chinese households continue to grow their incomes, China Mobile should maintain its top- line growth as more first-time mobile customers buy handsets.

Currently, the Chinese government has been targeting economic growth in the nation's smaller cities and towns, where China Mobile dominates with unparalleled network coverage and about 70% of the 2G market share.

Since mobile penetration is lowest outside the major cities, China Mobile is the best-placed competitor in China to win this new business.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. China Mobile's more exciting growth prospects lie in high-speed mobile data services. Data revenue soared 45% in 2011 powered by overall mobile data traffic growth of 152.1% year-over-year.

To boot, the company pays a solid dividend yield that has grown every year since 2006. In 2011 alone, the company boosted its dividend nearly 13%.

Right now, China Mobile pays a quarterly $0.51 distribution for a current yield of 4.0%. But with close to $53 billion in cash and $4.6 billion in total debt on the books, I expect the company will have no problem growing its dividend in the years to come...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying AT&T is a bad company and that you shouldn't invest in it. Quite the contrary, as the largest cell-phone provider in the United States, the company should have a bright future ahead of it.

I'm merely trying to get the point across that there are dominant companies similar to AT&T that just happen to trade in foreign markets... and most of these companies have a lot more room to grow.

In other words, investing internationally doesn't have to be as risky as it seems. There are dozens of companies trading outside the United States that are dominating their markets and rewarding shareholders in the process...

About the author:

Street Authority
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