As any red-blooded American would do, I’m enjoying my Sundays watching football. But unlike any other season, this one got off to an explosively-divisive start after President Trump remarked that NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem should be fired. If Trump were President of China, and Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) was Weibo Corp (ADR) (NASDAQ:WB), I might consider a position in WB stock.
However, I live in the U.S., and thank God for that!
While I agree that our nation has serious problems to address, I’m also grateful for our First Amendment right. The fact that professional athletes can protest our national anthem in front of our military-service members is remarkable. Whether you agree or disagree with the protests or our President, we can come together on this issue: no one was sent to a re-education camp and that’s a good thing.
Should the protesting athletes try this in China, the results would not be favorable for them. Herein lies my primary problem with WB stock. WB draws comparisons to Twitter for obvious reasons, but in this case, Twitter is contextually the superior product. It doesn’t look that way because TWTR is a terrible stock overall. But no one is threatening to pull the plug on Twitter’s broad social network.
On the flip side, the Chinese government doesn’t hold freedom of speech in high regard. One only needs to look at the headlines and China’s history against political dissidents to get the picture. The continued success of Weibo stock depends on leveraging its nation’s billion-strong population size. But if WB is merely going to be a platform for communist propaganda, I don’t see the value proposition.
WB Stock Is Great Under Normal Circumstances
Granted, I understand that WB stock is red hot. Year-to-date, shares are up over 146%. Few investments, aside from cryptocurrencies, jumped so high, so fast. If the political situation remained stable, plenty of legitimately bullish arguments exist favoring WB.
First, as InvestorPlace contributor Ian Bezek points out, unlike Twitter, WB “knows how to make a buck.” The social-media firm has exceptionally strong profitability margins and revenue growth. It also has zero debt. For all its hype regarding a turnaround, its margins are still negative, and is taking on more debt. If you’re basing an investment on long-term potential, Weibo stock is a no-brainer.
Second, the company is growing at a more attractive rate than prime competitor Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB). According to our own Larry Ramer, “Weibo’s monthly average users grew at a 28% clip last quarter, while Facebook’s rose just 17%, and Facebook’s revenue increased 47%, versus Weibo’s 72% gain.” As I previously stated, China’s population size alone creates numerous opportunities for WB stock to maintain this advantage.
Finally, Ramer notes that with all the good news surrounding WB, the firm could become a takeover target. Chinese powerhouse Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) has been steadily increasing their stake in the internet firm. Alibaba may just buy the company outright, which obviously would be a boon for Weibo stock.
The Geopolitical Climate Does not Favor Weibo Stock
With all that said, none of it matters if China starts cracking down on political speech on the internet. It’s not just a threat; censorship is the Chinese government’s favorite weapon to control their people.
Earlier this year, WB stock and its majority owner SINA Corp (NASDAQ:SINA) tripped up due to an arbitrary government crackdown. Regulators ordered WB to halt its video and audio-streaming services due to unauthorized political content.
Proponents of Weibo stock will counter that buying shares at that particular moment was a great opportunity. But what about the next incident? Will the Chinese government extend a gracious hand merely to save American investors’ portfolios?
While WB stock appears technically strong, I think you have to pay attention to current geopolitics. We may very well have to engage North Korea militarily since they can potentially sell nuclear-weapons technology to rogue states. To prevent this last-resort action means that we have to apply economic pressure. By “we,” I mean China.
To get China to comply with our interests necessarily requires pressuring them. I’m sure the Chinese people have wide-ranging opinions regarding World War III potentially erupting in their backyard. Therefore, I think the government has more reasons to crackdown on free speech and to distrust the U.S., not fewer.
I don’t see myself as being a bear on WB stock. Rather, I’m just being pragmatic. While the financials overall look great for Weibo, it doesn’t mean anything if their underlying industry is taken out. The fact that a “Big Brother” entity could theoretically control its future should give WB investors pause.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.