Why Yandex Stock Popped Nearly 10% This Morning

MarketsMotley Fool

What happened

Give JPMorgan a hand, folks. Last week, the Wall Street megabanker told investors to buy stock in Russian internet giant Yandex (NASDAQ: YNDX) ahead of earnings. This morning, Yandex stock surged nearly 10% after earnings, and investors who bought the stock on JPMorgan's say-so are sitting pretty.

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Yandex shares are still up about 7% as of 1:20 p.m. EST. Can Yandex stock recapture its gains of earlier in the day, and perhaps even go higher? Let's find out.

So what

For fiscal Q4 2017, Yandex reported earnings of $0.18 per diluted share on sales of $483.7 million. These results beat analysts' sales forecasts of $469.9 million, but they missed Wall Street's expectations for earnings of $0.21 per share.

For the full year, Yandex's results missed expectations on both fronts. 2017 revenue of $1.63 billion fell just short of Wall Street's projected $1.65 billion, and the company's $0.46 per share in diluted profit missed the Street's $0.72 forecast as well.

On the plus side, Yandex delivered positive free cash flow of $197.6 million for the year, which was significantly higher than the company's $150.3 million in reported GAAP profit. At the very least, this implies that what profits Yandex did earn were of high quality.

Now what

Yandex told investors that it expects to grow ruble-denominated revenue by 25% to 30% this year. This forecast includes the addition of inorganic sales growth from absorbing Uber's ride-hailing operations in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, but does not account for the risk of sales declines resulting from "potential deconsolidation of Yandex.Market." (In other words, sales growth could in fact fall short of what Yandex is promising.) Still, to give investors an idea of how things are progressing, Yandex said that its core "Search and Portal ruble-based revenue" will grow a very respectable 18% to 20%.

Yandex stock now boasts a $13.6 billion market capitalization after today's run-up. Based on the company's $153 million in 2017 earnings, and its $198 million in 2017 free cash flow, investors today are being offered the chance to buy Yandex for roughly 89 times earnings and 69 times free cash flow.

That seems a bit high, even for a company that says it's growing at 30% annually -- and even more expensive for one that might grow only in the high teens. Long story short: Not everyone's going to agree with me on this one, but despite the strong and continuing sales growth, Yandex doesn't look like much of a bargain. If you want to buy a Russian stock, I'd suggest you "search" elsewhere.

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Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Yandex. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.