The overall favorable financials and rather a low valuation of the Chinese fintech present a new investment opportunity.
● Lufax achieved positive year-over-year growth in key financials during the second quarter of 2021.
● Larger clients are cutting more shares in credit loan and asset management sectors.
● The stock repurchase plan is expected to boost Lufax's stock price – which has been decreasing for months to a level way below IPO price.
● Several problems, such as the shrinking business scale and decreasing income from the technology-based business, have become concerns for Lufax's long-term development.
Lufax (LU:NYSE), founded in Shanghai in 2011, is a fintech affiliate of Ping An Group that provides personal financial services as an agency and dealmaker to help financial institutions connect to retail clients. Lufax launched its New York Stock Exchange public offering on October 30, 2020, raising USD 2.36 billion.
Check out our latest coverage of Lufax.
On August 10, Lufax posted its financial results for the second quarter of 2021. Here, we dissect the released data, while constructing an investment message.
Improving financials, with a better business structure
During the three months through June, Lufax achieved revenue growth of 17.3% and its net income increased by 53.2% year-over-year. The total revenue and net income grew from CNY 12.64 billion and CNY 3.09 billion in the same period last year, to CNY 14.83 billion and CNY 4.73 billion in the second quarter of 2021, respectively.
Since the third quarter of 2019, Lufax has been achieving positive year-on-year quarterly revenue growth, despite the COVID-19 outbreak. The net profit only showed a decrease from July to September in 2020, mainly affected by the pandemic, as the firm claims. Nevertheless, the overall business operation and profitability have been improving.
What is more, consistent with its strategy in the retail credit field, the company has increased loans to small-to-medium businesses in recent years. During the second quarter of 2021, 77.6% of the new loans were issued to the small business owners who normally have somewhat large tickets, therefore reducing Lufax's costs associated with the borrowers.
In the wealth management sector, contribution to total client assets from customers with investments of more than CNY 300,000 on the company's platform increased to 80.2% as of June 30, 2021, from 75.4% in the same period in 2020.
Upward price momentum
In May 2021, Lufax announced that the ADS worth USD 300 million would be repurchased over the following six months. Some of the company's top executives will also spend USD 5 million at most with personal funds on the ADS purchase. By the end of June 30, transactions accounting for USD 286 million had been closed, with USD 281 million from the company and 5 million from the management team.
Furthermore, in the press release of the second quarter's financial results this year, Lufax announced that a new series of stock repurchases would be launched, with ADS worth around USD 700 million to be bought back within one year. The company will intake USD 10 million of ADS shares transferred from the market. This plan is strongly considered a positive sign on the underlying stock price.
It is clear that the management is confident in Lufax's future, and trying to give the market positive signs, especially under the current low-valuation situation in the stock market. Lufax was certainly very high-profile in launching on the New York Stock Exchange on October 30, 2020 as the fourth largest unicorn globally, reaching its historical high record of USD 19.72 per share in the next month. However, since May 2021, partially because of the crackdown in valuation among all Chinese concept stocks, the stock price of Lufax has sunk – to USD 8.60 on August 17 of 2021, far below its IPO price.
What is more, 13 over 16, which is 81.25% of the Wall St. analysts give bullish or very bullish ratings to Lufax. Along with the stock repurchase plan, we believe the stock price will be boosted, based on overall solid financial performances and below-expectation capital market recognition; thus, Lufax is considered a good investment now.
What to be aware of
The new loans facilitated during the second quarter of 2021 decreased by 11.4% from the previous quarter and the asset amount from wealth management clients only went up by 1% from the first quarter of 2021.
Per the management, that was because of the change in company strategies, as Lufax has been focusing more on service quality instead of business expansion, which is backed by three principles: compliance operation, targeting SMB and affluent clients and technology improvement.
However, the last principle, which lies upon the technological transformation, which Lufax has been emphasizing for years, has no embodiment. The largest revenue component – technology-based income – has been contributing less and less since the third quarter of 2019, the earliest financial records available. Compared with the other two Chinese fintech leaders, Ant Group and JD Digits, Lufax's R&D expenditure-over-revenue ratio ranked last since 2017. What is worse, the expense has been taking up a decreasing percentage of the total revenue since 2019.
The company's maturity process can partly explain the recently decreasing month-over-month profitability and shrinking business scale. This, however, can affect the operation results. Although the 'LU' stock may provide a short-term investment opportunity, its long-term development is still unclear.