About twice the size of New Jersey with a population of 16.5 million, the Kingdom of the Netherlands is a prosperous and open economy with a bent towards trading with the world. The top multinationals based in the Netherlands accounted for combined revenue of just under $900 billion in 2006.
It is easy to tap into in this global corporate vigor through the Netherlands iShare (EWN) that contains a basket of 27 Dutch companies. The global financial services firm ING accounts for 18% of the basket. ING has a dominant position in growing Asian markets such as China, India and Thailand and its direct bank now has 15 million customers worldwide. 50% of its profits come from insurance operations, and since European and American markets are rather mature, it’s strategy is to continue to diversify geographically and move into higher growth areas such as retirement services. ING is a low cost provider with a ROE in 2005 of 24%, though the relatively high debt load is a concern.
The next four highest weighted companies in this ETF are all top quality: ABN Amro, Phillips Electronics, Unilever and Aegon. In terms of sectors, diversified financials account for 18% of the basket; food, beverage and tobacco is 13%; banks, 13% and consumer durables, 10%. The Netherlands' stock market is undervalued with its AEX index trading at a price earnings ratio of 11 times earnings.