Is 51job a Better Buy Than LinkedIn or Monster?

Is 51job a Better Buy Than LinkedIn or Monster?

They're hiring in China, and 51job is making the most of its market leadership in online recruitment services.

The Chinese company that got its start inserting regional job listings in local Chinese newspapers before expanding into the more lucrative realm of cyberspace posted another quarter of growth after yesterday's market close. Revenue climbed 12% to a better than expected $68.6 million, fueled by a 15% spike in online recruiting. That was held back by 51job's original print business that continues to scale back in scope. 51job once served more than two dozen of China's biggest newspapers with weekly job listings, but it's now retreated to just four publications.

Shifting from print to the Internet has historically beefed up 51job's margins, but not this time. Net income inched just 4% higher to the equivalent of $0.64 per ADS. That's in line with Wall Street expectations, and that's actually a good thing. It's the first time this year that 51job doesn't fall short on the bottom line.

This has been a surprisingly strong performer over the years, more than tripling since I recommended it to Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service subscribers three years ago.

Stateside investors may have a hard time wrapping their heads around a growing provider of online recruitment that isn't in the LinkedIn mold of social networking. Domestic leader Monster Worldwide -- which has struggled in 51job's turf with its diminishing stake in -- has been a disappointment for growth stock investors.

Monster reported an 11% decline in revenue for the same three months this morning. The market was braced for the decline, and the stock actually moved higher on the news. But during the same three-year run that has seen 51job more than triple, we've seen Monster shed nearly two-thirds of its value.

LinkedIn has naturally fared well. The career-oriented social networking giant saw revenue during the same quarter soar 56%, and adjusted earnings grew even faster. But here's where the valuation appeal of 51job may sway some investors who are reluctant to buy into China's booming employment scene.

51job may not be cheap at 25 times next year's earnings, but it's a bargain when pitted against LinkedIn's multiple of 99 times next year's profit target. There are regulatory concerns in China, and that's partly weighing on the stock this morning, but it's hard not to like 51job's prospects as a proven Wall Street winner.

Given 51job's consistent growth over the years -- and its guidance calls for another quarter of double-digit revenue growth for the new quarter -- it may just be the better stock at getting the job done in your portfolio.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends 51job and LinkedIn. The Motley Fool owns shares of LinkedIn. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Originally published