1,001 Teutonic Nights

Our survey of the Winter Olympics powerhouses continues. Next up, Germany.

That title may be a mite ambitious, but it's not too far off.

In our continuing effort to capitalize on interest in the international Winter Olympics to spark interest in international investing, we've already run through the equity offerings of Italy, Norway, Finland, and Sweden in short order. One European Olympic juggernaut, however, has remained conspicuously absent (until now): Germany.

At last report, Germany stood in first place in the Olympic medals race, with 20 medals total, eight of which are gold. On the economic stage, the company does almost as well. Germany ranks as the largest economy in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. How could we ignore Germany in our survey of worldwide investment opportunities available to U.S. investors?

Short answer: We couldn't. It may take some time to cover all of the 18 German companies that list their stocks on U.S. exchanges in the form of American Depositary Receipts (ADR), but bear with me over the next few days, and I assure you we'll get to all of them.

To lend some semblance of organization to this series, I'm going to tackle the various German ADR offerings one industry sector at a time, more or less. In part 1 of this series, we'll take a look at three "conservative" investment ideas: insurance, utilities, and banks. Later on, we'll address chemicals, health care, hi-tech and a subset thereof -- semiconductors.

Without further ado, then, it's once again time to.

Get to know a country
We begin our survey with an eclectic mix of three investments. First up, insurance.

Allianz
(Level II ADR) 1 ADR = 0.1 Common Share

At the risk of overstating the case, Allianz (NYSE: AZ  ) bestrides the German financial sector like a colossus. The company isn't just Germany's largest insurer -- it also owns the country's third-largest bank, Dresdner. In fact, the company's activities range from providing property-casualty, life, and health insurance, to retail banking, to investment banking, to asset management. Allianz runs a network of nearly 1,000 bank branches within Germany proper and nearly three score more internationally.

Allianz's financials appear attractive at first glance. The company sports operating margins nearly twice the industry average and significantly higher than those of competitors such as French AXA and American AIG (NYSE: AIG  ) . Yet its P/E is almost identical to those of AXA and AIG.

The biggest chink in Allianz's armor, it would appear, is growth. Analysts estimate that Allianz will only be able to grow its earnings at about 4% per annum over the next five years. That's slower than AXA's 6% and just a fraction of AIG's projected 13% growth.

Meanwhile, Allianz's dividend looks positively stingy for such a low-growth, high-profitability company. At 1.4%, the yield may be better than AIG's 0.9%, but it's barely half the 2.3% that AXA pays.

E.ON
(Level II ADR) 1 ADR = 0.333 Common Share

E.ON (NYSE: EON  ) just might be the most important and influential company you've never heard of. By market cap, the company is the largest energy utility in the world -- and twice as large as the biggest U.S. energy utility, Income Investor recommendation Exelon (NYSE: EXC  ) . The company's reach is similarly broad. Although based in Germany, E.ON also provides electricity and gas service in the U.K., Europe, and the American Midwest. It also operates a specialty chemicals business and -- get this -- a portfolio of over 100,000 housing units.

Your guess is as good as mine as to why.

Valuation-wise, E.ON trades for 14 times earnings and doesn't look to offer much of a bargain, given that it's only projected to grow earnings at about 9% per annum over the next five years. I'm also unimpressed with the firm's 2.6% dividend yield. If you're going to assume the additional risk of investing as a stranger in a strange land, you should demand something better than the 3.6% dividend you could get by staying home and buying shares of Dominion, or the 4.4% offered by Duke (NYSE: DUK  ) . Otherwise, I just don't see the point.

Deutsche Bank
(Level II ADR) 1 ADR = 1 Common Share

We round out today's trio with Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB  ) , which does pretty much everything that Allianz does, except for the insurance bit. Retail, commercial, and investment banking -- if you can lend it at a profit, Deutsche Bank has a piece of the action. And of course, the bank also does asset management, helping its clients invest in everything from fixed income to mutual funds, from real estate to hedge funds.

Sadly, Deutschland's greatest pride in banking is also its greatest shame. Pundits have wondered for years when Deutsche Bank will sell out, or buy another bank, in order to bulk up and better compete with its international rivals. With just $50 billion in market cap, Deutsche Bank looks awfully small when competing against the likes ofIncome Investor pick JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) and Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) . Lack of critical mass might be one factor contributing to Deutsche Bank's below-industry average operating margins.

To this Fool's mind, that potential for unlocking the bank's potential through a sudden merger announcement, combined with Deutsche Bank's attractive P/E ratio relative to its growth (the bank has a PEG half the size of Citigroup or JP Morgan), makes Deutsche Bank the most intriguing investment idea of the three discussed today.

And there you have it -- our opening volley of three German stocks available for trading every day on the U.S. stock markets. Tune in next week as we turn our investing eyes to Germany's chemicals sector and beyond.

Until then, enjoy the "real" Olympics and Fool on!

Exelon and JPMorgan Chase areMotley Fool Income Investorpicks. Take the dividend-dedicated newsletter service for a 30-day free spin.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above.


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