Last week, I took a long position in Chinese Internet company Renren (RENN).
They went public more than a year ago as the "Facebook of China." It never really panned out that way.
After reaching $20 a share on its first day of trading, it's almost been a straight ski slope down to now sub-$3.
With that kind of 80%-plus decline, you lose interest fast from the Street.
But after digging into some of the recent trends I've taken a position here and am hoping that the company is able to convince investors that it's really turned the tide in the next 10 days when it reports its most recent earnings report.
Renren is actually no longer really a social networking company. It of course still has a web-based social networking site in China, but a lot of the growth has really come out of that business, especially with the rapid shift to mobile. Young Chinese have really migrated away from Renren to Sina's (SINA) Weibo or Tencent's WeChat products.
Renren saw the handwriting on the wall about a year ago and started to make a major shift in their strategy to mobile. They thought that mobile games was the way to go and specifically developing their own games (although they allow third-party games to be promoted on their platform).
It's actually best now to think of Renren as more of a mobile gaming company. What's interesting is that -- at least up until their last earnings call -- almost all of their revenue from mobile gaming was coming from iOS. Yet Android is that mobile OS that has proliferated in China in the past couple of years. Frustratingly for a gaming company like Renren, there's not a great ecosystem yet to allow for an app provider on Android to monetize from the growth of the OS over there. There's no Google Play store in China as there's no Google (GOOG).
But Renren is clearly focused on Android promotion. We will see if they're able to show any progress on that front in the new earnings coming out. If they are, they'll be able to do even better than their prior quarter's 100%-plus year-on-year growth in mobile gaming revenue.
Beyond games, Renren has other assorted businesses including a group buying site called Nuomi.com and an online video site called 56.com. Both are in the top five in their respective categories and have been growing.
Nuomi appears to be on the cusp of profitability after a lot of steep losses for the past couple of years. The Chinese group buying market has thinned out considerably and Nuomi appear to be benefitting from that consolidation.
The big thing for me in getting long the stock is that cash balance. You're basically getting a company that is close to breakeven for its cash value. If it shows solid progress in any or all of their core businesses, I could see this stock doubling by the summer. If it doesn't come through this quarter, it will probably pull through in the quarter following. I like the risk/reward here.