As you probably already know, PIIGS is an acronym that stands for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. It also serves as a pun, suggesting these countries are the pigs of the European Union because of the mess their governments have made of their finances.
While these countries are indeed economically distressed and in need of tough measures to mend their economies, it doesn't mean that every business headquartered there must be treated as rubbish. In reality, there are some great businesses based in PIIGS that have almost completely disregarded the European sovereign debt crisis and whose stocks have outperformed the Stoxx Europe 50 Index, which is comprised of 50 European blue-chips and sector leaders.
Jeronimo Martins (JRONY.PK) is one of the oldest companies in the world, founded in 1792 in Lisbon. It is engaged in the food retail sector, operating more than 1,800 discount stores under the banner Biedronka; seven drugstores under the banner Hebe; and 36 pharmacies under the brand name Apteka Na Zdrowie in Poland. It also operates 369 supermarkets under the banner Pingo Doce, 37 cash-and-carry stores, and four food service platforms under the banner Recheio in Portugal. Moreover, the company owns industrial facilities in Portugal focused on the production of several Unilever (UL) brands through the joint venture company Unilever Jerónimo Martins. The market cap is $11.6 billion. The price/earnings ratio is somewhat expensive at 25 and the dividend yield is 2%. The company has outperformed the Stoxx Europe 50 by more than 200% in the past three years.
Elan Corp. (ELN), founded in 1969 in Athlon, is a neuroscience biotechnology company focused on discovering and developing advanced therapies in neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases, in particular Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The market cap is $7.5 billion. The price/earnings ratio is 16.7 and the company pays no dividend. Elan has outperformed the Stoxx Europe 50 by more than 100% since May 2009.
Ryanair Holdings (RYAAY) is a low-cost passenger airline headquartered at Dublin airport, serving short haul, point-to-point routes between Ireland and the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, and Morocco. One of the most successful companies in Ireland, it currently has a market cap of $10 billion. Its price/earnings ratio is 15 and pays no dividends, but plans a special dividend in 2013. It has outperformed the Stoxx Europe 50 by more than 40% in the past three years.
Luxottica Group (LUX) was founded in 1961 not far from Venice, and is the world's largest eyewear company. It is engaged in the design, manufacturing, and distribution of prescription frames, sports eyewear and sunglasses. It has six manufacturing facilities in Italy, as well as one plant in the U.S. and in Brazil, and two in China. Its most distinguished brands are Persol, Ray-Ban and Oakley. It also manufactures sunglasses for designer brands such as Chanel, Donna Karan and Burberry. It has a market cap of $17.5 billion, the P/E ratio is 29, and the dividend yield is 1.6%. Luxottica has outperformed the Stoxx Europe 50 by more than 70% in the past three years.
Campari Group (DVDCY.PK) is a multinational producer of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, currently the sixth-biggest player worldwide in the branded spirits category, holding a portfolio of over 40 brands marketed and distributed in more than 190 countries. The group's operations are split into three segments: spirits, wines, and soft drinks. The company was founded in 1860 in Milan. It has a market cap of $4 bilion, the P/E ratio is 19, and the dividend yield is 1.4%. Campari has outperformed the Stoxx Europe 50 by more than 100% in the past three years.
Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (CCH) is the second-largest Coca-Cola bottler in the world by volume, after Coca-Cola Enterprises, and operates in 27 countries in Europe and Nigeria. I made my case for investing in Coca-Cola Hellenic a few months ago. It has a market cap of $7 billion, the P/E ratio is 19, and the dividend yield is 2%. Coca-Cola Hellenic has outperformed the Stoxx Europe 50 by more than 20% in the past three years.
Inditex Group (IDEXY.PK) was founded in 1975 and is headquartered in Arteixo. The company's activities include the design, confection, manufacturing, distribution and retail of men, women and children apparel, footwear and fashion accessories, as well as home furnishings and household textile products. It manages over 5,000 retail stores worldwide and its flagship chain store is Zara. The market cap is $55 billion, the P/E ratio is 22, and the dividend yield is 2.6%. Inditex has outperformed the Stoxx Europe 50 by slightly more than 100% in the past three years.
Grifols (GRFS) is a multinational pharmaceutical and chemical company, founded in Barcelona in 1940. It is a producer of blood plasma-based products, a field in which it is the European leader, and also supplies devices, instruments and reagents for clinical testing laboratories and hospitals. It comprises a number of controlled entities with operations established in Europe, Latin America, the U.S., Asia, and Australia. The market cap is $7.6 billion, the P/E ratio is very dear at 72, and it pays no dividend. Grifols has outperformed the Stoxx Europe 50 by slightly more than 50% in the past three years.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.