ADRs: A Bright Spot in the Markets

 |  Includes: BK, C, DB, SBP
by: Global Investing Editor

Yes, Virginia, the credit crunch will slow down demand for capital goods. Yes, Virginia, the now lower oil price will impact demand for jack-up rigs and wellhead services, for natural gas and alternative fuels. So the hit to our portfolios will not be confined to a single stock.

However, there is a air of excess panic about markets. Analysts are now slashing forecasts to levels which don't make sense. The world is not going to stop consuming energy. The stock market has now incorporated expectations of a very severe depression into its pricing in the energy sector, and frankly, it's overdone.

I feel a bit like a kid in a candy shop looking at all the bargains on the shelves. But it is still too soon to jump in. I am not certain October 10 was the bottom. Are you?

Pity the poor investment bankers like Sherman McCoy, former master of the universe. They are not getting rich from initial public offerings. They are not getting rich from mergers and acquistions. They are not getting rich from leveraged buy-outs. They are not getting rich from slicing and dicing debt. They are not getting rich from selling portfolio insurance. They are not getting rich from money management. They are not getting rich from bond trading. Their hedge funds are under water; their money market funds are falling below the buck; their private equity investments are sinking without a trace.

There are a couple of bright spots. The proliferation of new unsponsored American Depositary Receipts means that fees will go up for the gang which specialize in ADRs: Bank of New York (NYSE:BK); Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB); and Citigroup (NYSE:C). (See below, two items.)

Santander (SBP) successfully sold new shares in European markets. U.S. ADR owners could not subscribe the capital increase because the shares were not registered, and we will be paid 18.4 cents per share from the depositary from selling our rights, after fees, commissions, and foreign exchange charges. I own 2000 shares of STD. The haircut applies to all ADR owners, no matter how many shares they own.

The SEC, by requiring registration of rights issues but not registration of unsponsored ADRs, is playing into Wall Street's hands. The fee structure favors the depositary banks and not the retail investor. Or even the institutional investors who may be required to buy ADRs rather than foreign ordinary shares.

Here is another example. Mexican serial stock manipulators of the Salinas Pliego clan have finally decided to pay the fees to Bank of NY, the depositary, to cancel the ADRs for Dataflux S.A. De C.V. Back in 2005 it was merged into another Salinas Pliego firm, Universidaded SNCAB which only trades in Mexico. Any readers who own this should contact their brokers to at least be able to write off their investment as worthless; before the cancellation you could not even do that. I own a round lot which my international brokerage manager is trying to cash out.

The SEC investigated a debt switch paying off $109 mn at the expense of shareholders in his companies by Ricardo Salinas Pliego, the Mexican magnate. He claimed back in mid-2005 that he was the victime of "regulatory excess". His debt switch was also investigated in Mexico.

Then he withdrew three NYSE-listed ADRs rather than meet regulations: Grupo Elektra, EKT, an electrical goods retailer and financier; TV Azteca, TZA, a TV network; and Grupo Iusacell, CEL, a cellular network. Their NYSE shareholders could submit their ADRs for cash.

Dataflux, previously called Datacapital, was in a different league. It runs schools teaching English and computers in Mexico, and owns half a website called, incoporated in the U.S. The principal of DFLXY is Guillermo Salinas Pliego, Ricardo's brother. Ricardo owns the other half of Todito.

Apart from Todito, TV Azteca is also U.S. regulated, by the FCC. These two Salinas brothers are not related to ex-Pres. Salinas de Gortari. Bank of NY/Mellon is depostiary for the lot.