Some investors are completely avoiding European stocks due to the current Irish debt crisis. However they be missing on some excellent investment opportunities. There are many European multinationals with a strong presence in foreign countries especially in the fast-growing emerging markets (EM).
In fact, European multinationals derive more than 10% of their revenue from EM compared to just 7% for American multinationals. This is because many European multinationals have the “first-mover” advantage in capturing foreign markets because of their centuries-old presence there since the age of colonialism, when great European powers ruled most the world. For example, long before Coco Cola (NYSE:KO) and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) arrived in Asia, banking groups such as HSBC and Standard Chartered (OTCPK:SCBFF) operated banking centers in many Asian countries.
HSBC (HBC) did a comprehensive study on European companies for its foreign earnings. The banking giant's study found that Spanish firms have the largest exposure to EM mainly due to their strong foothold in Latin American markets. The chart below shows the exposure to EM relative to developed markets by country:
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The chart below shows the top 25 European companies with the highest exposure to EM.
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Source: via FT Beyondbrics blog
UK-based Standard Chartered Bank has the largest exposure to EM. It trades on the LSE with ticker STAN. Spanish banks Banco Santander (STD) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (NYSE:BBVA) currently have dividend yields of over 7% and 4% respectively. For investors who would like to add some EM exposure to their portfolio, these are good picks at current or lower prices. Telecom services operator Telefonica (NYSE:TEF) has an 8.04% yield.
In addition to growing infrastructure spending, private consumption of goods and services is rising in EM markets as the new middle-class acquires consumer goods to raise their standard of living. Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever (NYSE:UN), mentioned in the list, has a multitude of brands which enjoy a high popularity in developing countries. Switzerland-based ABB (NYSE:ABB) is heavily involved in the infrastructure buildup in emerging markets such as India, Brazil, China, etc.
Disclosure: Long ABB, BBVA, STD