Investing World Cup Final: Western Europe vs. India and Southeast Asia

Perhaps only in an investing World Cup could Western Europe find itself pitted against India and Southeast Asia for all of the marbles. But this is the match-up that you, the reader, voted for. Jim Gillies' arguments for Western Europe vanquished first China and then South America, while Tim Beyers' India and Southeast Asia had to get past North America and Developed Asia.

Frankly, this is a match that both parties should be well prepared for, since the obvious arguments stack up quite similarly to those of past opponents.

The advantage of Western Europe is a large, affluent, and educated base of both workers and consumers, coupled with a long tradition of shareholder-friendly legal structures. The drawback is both lower relative growth (in terms of the economies and populations) and a social welfare state that seems to disincentivize risk-taking and entrepreneurial behavior.

On the other hand, India has one of the most populous and rapidly growing economies in the world, and much of Southeast Asia has at one time or another been lauded as the next great growth area of global investing. Alas, corruption and government intrusion are problematic, as are persistent issues of human rights, environmental protection, and inconsistent laws (and/or the application of those laws) toward foreign investors.

Consider this, if you will, as a battle between the world of 2006 and the world of 2060. Western Europe has a Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) lookalike; India has a tremendous number of homegrown software engineers. Western Europe has BMW, Porsche, and DaimlerChrysler (NYSE: DCX  ) , but India's Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM  ) could hit America like the Korean automakers did. Western Europe has drug companies GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK  ) and Roche, while India has Dr. Reddy's (NYSE: RDY  ) and Ranbaxy.

It seems to this Fool that the argument comes down to risk versus value and convenience. It's undeniably easier to find listed Western European stocks, it's easier to get information on them, it's easier to trade them, and the valuations aren't that bad. South and Southeast Asian stocks, on the other hand, are harder to track, harder to buy, and not necessarily quite as cheap, even with the recent declines in emerging markets.

Read on as our two Fools battle head-to-head for supremacy in our tournament of overseas investing possibilities.

Get a well-rounded view of your favorite Fools' top global stock picks with a copy of The Motley Fool'sInternational Report.

Microsoft has been singled out by ourInside Valuenewsletter service, while GlaxoSmithKline has been recommended by ourIncome Investornewsletter.What type of investor are you? Talk stocks with other investors and our analysts when you give our newsletters a try.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares). The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stephen D.

I'm an ex-Wall Street sell-side and buy-side analyst who has spent most of the last 10 years writing on a wide range of industries and investment ideas.

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