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Stock Strategist

It's Time to Buy Tencent

We see a good opportunity to invest in this wide-moat Internet giant.

Even after lowering our forecasts, we think  Tencent (TCEHY) is severely undervalued. The wide-moat Internet giant has the largest social networking platforms in China, Weixin/WeChat and QQ, and monetizes them through selling in-game items, virtual items, premium service subscriptions, online advertising, payments, financial products, and other products.

We now expect a 10-year compound annual growth rate of 20% for operating profit, compared with 29% previously, and a 10-year CAGR of 19% for revenue versus 29% previously. The other revenue segment, which is mainly composed of payment and cloud, has slowed faster than our expectations in recent quarters, leading to a 10-percentage-point reduction in our 10-year other revenue CAGR to 30%. As a result of a pause in games approval in China, we now assume year-over-year online gaming revenue growth to be 6% in 2018. We estimate there will be a rebound in online gaming revenue growth to 16% in both 2019 and 2020 as approval resumes in mid-2019.

Our assumption of lower revenue growth is partially offset by higher margin assumptions as margins have held up better than our expectations in recent quarters. We believe the operating margin (excluding other gains and interest income) will gradually decrease as a result of investments to transition to industrial Internet and will bottom at 22.5%. But as scale amasses, we expect the operating margin to increase to 30.3% by 2027.

Given Tencent’s strong network effect with 1.1 billion monthly active users of WeChat, we believe temporary suspension of game approval and a weak macro environment provide a good opportunity to accumulate this high-quality name. Tencent’s repurchase of 2.8 million shares is a testimonial to our view. We think smaller game companies will be squeezed by the regulatory headwinds and Tencent will be able to gain market share.

Third-quarter revenue was up 24% year over year, led by payment, advertising, digital content sales, and cloud. Operating profit excluding interest income and other gains was up only 1% year over year. Net income was up 30% year over year as a result of a CNY 8.8 billion higher valuation of investees such as Meituan Dianping; this compares with CNY 3.9 billion in the year-ago period. There was an increase in monthly active users of Weixin and WeChat of 11% year over year and 2% sequentially. More important, there was growth in user engagement as a result of more use cases offered by mini programs and Weixin Pay. Mini programs have penetrated into more industries such as transportation and healthcare. We think user engagement will continue to grow as penetration of mini programs and Weixin Pay deepens.

The online game segment was in the spotlight, with smartphone games revenue up 7% year over year and 11% quarter over quarter due to 10 new game releases, but PC client games revenue down 15% year over year and 4% sequentially. Growth is weak as PUBG and other new games have not been monetized due to a suspension in game approval. Key title Honor of Kings has continued to see sequential increases in revenue driven by more paying users, which should give added comfort to investors in the near term.

The market appears to be concerned that the slowing economy will put pressure on the online advertising segment, but the third-quarter results in this business were very solid. The segment’s revenue was up 47% year over year, an acceleration from 39% in the second quarter, while revenue was up 15% sequentially, similar to the sequential increase in the third quarter of 2017. We believe Tencent still has a lot of room to increase its Weixin Moment ad load to increase advertising revenue, and this will largely offset the impact of the lower advertising budget of customers. Better monetization of its video content and expanding the advertiser base by converting Weixin Pay merchants to advertisers can also lift advertising revenue.

Other revenue, which mainly consists of payment and cloud, slowed to 69% year over year, lower than our expectations. LiCaiTong’s assets under management grew to CNY 500 billion versus CNY 300 billion in January this year. The gross margin was 22.8% in the quarter, same as the year-ago period.

Chelsey Tam does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.