Bargain hunting in the Chinese stock rubble

Forget Greece. China is the real problem
Forget Greece. China is the real problem

China's stock market is a mess right now. But does that mean that investors should avoid all Chinese stocks? No.

There are hundreds of companies that are headquartered in China but trade on exchanges in the United States.

Many of these companies are industry leaders, including giant telecom (and Apple (AAPL) partner) China Mobile (CHL), energy company CNOOC (CEO) and search engine Baidu (BIDU).

Several Chinese blue chips are now trading at bargain prices simply because they are based in China.

Peter Pham, managing director of the Asia-oriented asset management firm Phoenix Capital, said that the current bear market in China "could create opportunities for [foreign investors] to increase their position if they remain bullish in the long term about China's economic prospects."

Shares of China Mobile have fallen nearly 10% in just the past month, for example. That's actually not that bad considering that the Shanghai Composite is down about 25%.

Related: Nearly 25% of Chinese stocks have stopped trading

But China Mobile now trades for just 14 times earnings estimates for this year. To put that in perspective, it's the same valuation as AT&T (T). And China Mobile's profits are expected to rise at a faster rate than Ma Bell's.

China Mobile isn't the only cheap Chinese stock you can buy on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, either.

Airlines China Eastern (CEA) and China Southern (ZNH) are both valued at less than 10 times earnings estimates -- prices roughly in line with big U.S. carriers Southwest (LUV) and Delta (DAL).

Like their American counterparts, China Eastern and China Southern are both expected to report huge profit increases this year thanks to the pullback in oil prices from last year as well as increased demand for travel.

And Baidu, which is often referred to as China's Google (GOOGL), could be a compelling buy now as well. The stock has fallen 10% in the past month -- even though its earnings are expected to grow about 25% a year for the next few years. Google's estimated growth rate is just 15%.

Jun Zhang, an analyst with Rosenblatt Securities, said in a report Tuesday that investors may also want to take advantage of the fact that several Chinese companies trading in the United States are looking to go private. That could translate to decent gains for investors owning the American shares.

Related: Foreign investors can't ignore China's crazy stock market

Zhang noted that many Chinese companies trading in the U.S. are much cheaper than rivals trading only in China -- despite the recent market volatility. So some companies may get bought out in order to go public again in China.

Mobile security company Qihoo (QIHU), dating app Momo (MOMO), digital gaming maker KongZhong (KZ) and hotel chain HomeInns (HMIN) have all recently announced that they've received offers to go private.

Zhang thinks security company NQ (NQ) and 58.com (WUBA), which is kind of like China's version of Craigslist, could be next.

Of course, betting on a takeover is always risky. So investors have to be careful.

What's more, many Chinese stocks are still expensive even after the pullback.

Alibaba (BABA), which hit an all-time low Tuesday morning, trades at nearly 30 times earnings estimates. There are also still many concerns about fake goods on Alibaba's various e-commerce platforms.

Chinese casino owner Melco (MPEL) is valued at 35 times profit forecasts -- even though gaming revenue has plunged in Macau lately.

Related: Greek crisis is nothing compared to China

But for investors that aren't comfortable picking and choosing individual Chinese stocks, there are some exchange-traded funds that invest in several large Chinese companies.

These ETFs, most notably the Market Vectors ChinaAMC A-Share (PEK) and iShares China Large-Cap (FXI) funds, have also been pretty volatile lately though.

Pham recommends another ETF that shuns stocks in favor of bonds. The PowerShares Chinese Yuan Dim Sum Bond (DSUM) ETF invests in debt that is denominated in China's yuan (or Renminbi) currency. But the debt is issued outside of China.

"The Dim Sum ETF seems to be the best way to go. It's multinational debt in yuan for the long term," Pham said.

In other words, investors get exposure to China with a little more stability. This ETF is down just 1% over the past month and is still up for the year.

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