Sify: A Year in Review

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It's been a good year for Sify (NAS: SIFY) investors, but it could have been even better.

Investors looking for Internet plays in India have a limited selection of pure plays.

There's Rediff.com (NAS: REDF) , but the portal operator is a slow-growing small fry in the world's second most populous nation. Revenue climbed a mere 1% to just $5.1 million in its latest quarter. Don't even ask about profitability. It's just not happening.

There's MakeMyTrip (NAS: MMYT) , the Indian travel portal that went public last year, which offers the growth that Rediff does not. Revenue grew by a whopping 84% in its latest quarter. It is profitable and growing. Analysts see adjusted earnings of $0.17 a share this fiscal year (ending in March) nearly doubling to $0.45 a share next year. However, the valuation certainly isn't cheap.

Then we get to Sify. The Indian provider of connectivity, hosting, and other IT-related services is well positioned for the inevitable dot-com revolution in its country. It also has some skin on the content end. Its Sify Movies website is one of India's fastest-growing movie portals.

These aren't the companies that one typically associates with India. Automaker Tata Motors (NYS: TTM) and IT outsourcing giant Infosys (NAS: INFY) are the names attracting larger global investor followings.

That may change soon. India's Draft National Telecom Policy promises to ramp up Web access throughout the country, but the cyberspace migration has been slow.

Unlike with China -- where investors have dozens of Internet hopefuls to choose from -- these are the three stateside-trading stocks that have all of their rupees in India's Web basket. If anything, Sify may deserve an asterisk. It's been branching out overseas. Sify turned heads in March after expanding into the Middle East through a partnership with Saudi Telecom.

Sify grew its revenue by just 6% in its latest quarter, but its deficit narrowed substantially. Three months earlier, Sify's second-quarter revenue popped by a robust 31%. The market reacted favorably to both reports, unlike the one before its back-to-back winning performances.

Sify's stock took a hit last month. It was unfortunate enough to have a joint venture with the ill-fated MF Global in India, and even as a minority investor this will leave a dent. However, that's just one of the many moving parts at Sify.

Buying international stocks is risky. There's always the fear that you'll be the last to know when things happen, a problem that was illustrated perfectly this summer when The Wall Street Journal pointed out the wide discrepancy that different financial sources have in reporting the number of Sify shares outstanding. The number of shares has actually more than tripled over the past two years after a dilutive -- and heavily discounted -- offering.

The volatility has paid off for Sify investors this year. The stock may have shed more than half of its value since peaking in April, but the shares are trading surprisingly 68% higher since the year began.

Despite the dilution realization and bumpy financials over the past year, Sify's in the right place for India's upcoming dot-com revolution.

Motley Fool's top stock for 2012 is also an international play, though it's far away from India. If you want to learn more, the report is free -- like this article -- but it won't be around forever, so check it out now.

If you want to follow India's Internet companies, consider trackingSify Technologies,Rediff.com,andMakeMyTripthrough My Watchlist.

At the time this article was published Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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