While some U.S. investors might like gold, at least one Russian company hopes it can interest them in buying a little titanium. Actually, a lot of titanium.
According to a Bloomberg report published Tuesday, Verkhnyaya Salda Metallurgical Production Association (VSMPA) hopes to become the latest Russian company to float its shares on the American Depositary Receipt (ADR) market. If its plans come to fruition, then sometime around the end of 2005, U.S. individual investors will have a chance to invest directly in the world's largest producer of titanium.
Titanium is indispensable in the production of modern aircraft and rockets. And with the U.S. aircraft industry finally beginning to recover from its Sept. 11-induced shock, VSMPA -- and its investors -- could be well-positioned to benefit from increased orders from aircraft parts manufacturers such as Titanium Metals (NYSE: TIE ) and RMI Titanium (NYSE: RTI ) , both of which sell titanium parts to Boeing (NYSE: BA ) , for example.
In fact, it appears that Russian investors looking ahead to better years for the aerospace industry are already buying into VSMPA. For the company not only produces the stuff that makes up rockets, the stock itself is a rocket. In the past year alone, VSMPA has tripled in value, and is currently the best-performing stock on Russia's RTS stock index. The company's market cap -- and remember that the stock now is trading only in the illiquid Russian marketplace, which depresses its natural price -- is already about $850 million.
VSMPA is also moving aggressively to expand its business. It already does considerable work with Allegheny Technologies (NYSE: ATI ) , the top U.S. specialty metals maker. And rumor has it that VSMPA is on the hunt for a U.S. titanium smelter to buy and market its product -- much like Lukoil's (NQB: LUKOY) strategy of buying up retail and wholesale gas stations to hawk its gasoline; or Severstal's decision to buy out the bankrupt Rouge steelworks. This may be a key development for VSMPA, because U.S. law requires defense contractors to use only titanium smelted in the U.S. when manufacturing products for the military. In purchasing a U.S. smelter, therefore, VSMPA would in essence be buying access to lucrative U.S. military contracts.
In sum, VSMPA's ADR could well be a titanium-strength investment.
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Foolish international lawyer and contributorRich Smithhas a day job advising Western companies on doing business in Russia. He owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article.