American stock investors have historically been a rather provincial lot. Why cross borders into less-well-known territory to find investments when the world's largest and most-liquid markets, packed with dynamic, world-class companies, trade right here? We'll admit to articulating that philosophy from time to time ourselves.
But this U.S.-centric investment mentality is changing. Accounting and corporate governance practices have become more standardized globally, making the analysis of foreign companies easier and investing in them less risky. At the same time, holding foreign stocks whose fortunes are closely tied to fast-growing emerging markets -- and potentially stronger currencies over time than the greenback -- can provide useful diversification to a largely domestic portfolio.
Which is not to say that investing overseas is a no-brainer. Investors are exposed to extra risks in many parts of the world, where the rule of law and shareholders' rights are not what they are in the U.S. The foreign exposure provided by holding multinational U.S. firms is perfectly fine for many investors (see STOCK WATCH: Where to Invest for the Rest of 2011).
If you do invest in individual foreign stocks, look for bargain-priced merchandise. The growth rate of a country or region in which a company operates should have no bearing on whether its stock is a buy. What's important is the price you pay.
Speakers at the Value Investing Congress that Whitney hosted in Pasadena, Cal., in early May offered a number of foreign-stock ideas. One interesting pick from Toronto money manager Guy Gottfried: Canadian real estate company Morguard Corp. (symbol MRC.TO (opens in new tab)). Morguard trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange at $62 Canadian (all prices are as of May 6).
Morguard's portfolio includes real estate in the U.S. and Canada, a property-management firm and a stake in a real estate investment trust. But Gottfried reckons that at today's share price, the market is assigning no value to Morguard's portfolio of owned-and-managed properties -- some 10,300 residential units and 7.1 million feet of commercial space -- which generate $152 million Canadian of operating income annually.
A more-speculative pick comes from David Nierenberg, of D3 Family Funds, a Camas, Wash., investment firm. MBAC Fertilizer (MBC.TO (opens in new tab), $3 Canadian) is based in Vancouver and, like Morguard, trades on the Toronto exchange. But its operations are in Brazil, where it aspires to become one of the leading producers of phosphate fertilizer and serve that country's booming agricultural economy.
Nierenberg has successfully invested with MBAC's top managers in the past (when they ran Yamana Gold, a Toronto-based mining company). He believes that if MBAC meets its production goals, within five years the company could generate at least $135 million Canadian annually in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). If MBAC does so, Nierenberg says, the shares could trade well above $10 Canadian.
One of our largest holdings is Grupo Prisa (PRIS-B (opens in new tab), $11), a leading media company in Europe, with holdings in newspapers, publishing, radio and television. Although the stock trades in the U.S. in dollars, the company is headquartered in Spain, where it generates 63% of its revenues. But it has a presence in 20 countries, many in fast-growing Latin America, where Prisa generates nearly 30% of its revenues. Prisa has new managers, who are cutting costs and selling off real estate and non-core businesses. By looking at the ratio of the stock's enterprise value (stock-market value plus net debt) to EBITDA, we believe Prisa trades at a 25% discount to its peers. On top of the potential gains as that gap closes, the shares are expected to pay dividends at an annual rate of roughly 9% over the next three years.
Columnists Whitney Tilson and John Heins co-edit Value Investor Insight and SuperInvestor Insight.
ADP: Hiring Slows in November to a Nearly Two-Year Low
The November ADP report showed that job growth is starting to cool in response to the Fed's efforts to fight inflation.
By Dan Burrows • Published
How Parents Can Teach Their Kids About Cryptocurrency
Starting with explaining the concept of money to begin with can help them grasp the concept of digital currencies.
By Neale Godfrey, Financial Literacy Expert • Published
Investing in Emerging Markets Still Holds Promise
Emerging markets have been hit hard in recent years, but investors should consider their long runway for potential growth.
By James K. Glassman • Published
Stocks: Winners and Losers from the Strong Dollar
Foreign Stocks & Emerging Markets The greenback’s rise may hurt companies with a global footprint, but benefit those that depend on imports.
By Anne Kates Smith • Published
5 Exciting Emerging Markets Funds to Buy
Foreign Stocks & Emerging Markets Emerging markets funds haven't been immune to global inflationary pressures. But now might be the time to strike on these high-risk, high-reward products.
By Kent Thune • Published
African Stocks: Investing in the Last Great Emerging Market
Foreign Stocks & Emerging Markets A massive middle class and rapid technology-enabled development could turn African stocks into growth darlings over the next two decades.
By Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA • Published
India Is on a Tear
Foreign Stocks & Emerging Markets Massive modernization presents opportunities for investors.
By Nellie S. Huang • Published
Wasatch Emerging Markets Small Cap Goes Its Own Way
Foreign Stocks & Emerging Markets This emerging-markets stock fund isn't afraid to stray from the pack.
By Nellie S. Huang • Last updated
Investors: Don't Give Up on Investing in China
Foreign Stocks & Emerging Markets Turmoil in China has been all over the financial news, but the volatile market is too big to ignore.
By Andrew Tanzer • Published
China's Evergrande Crisis: A Real Threat to U.S. Stocks?
Foreign Stocks & Emerging Markets A looming debt default by Chinese real estate titan Evergrande is sparking fears of global contagion and knocking stocks from their perches.
By Dan Burrows • Published