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Globally diversifying your portfolio is really important. It allows you to profit from the fast growth of developing economies, while also safeguarding your portfolio returns from regional economic woes. Let's take a quick peek at the advantages of global diversification. Then we'll examine one easy way to obtain it in your portfolio.
The promise and perils of investing overseas
The most obvious reason to diversify globally is to gain exposure to the developing world's supercharged economic growth. In the past decade, developing economies grew significantly faster than developed ones. For example, developing Asian economies, including China and India, grew nearly 9% on average annually during the most recent decade. By comparison, major advanced economies' GDP grew less than 2% per year.
By diversifying globally, you also hedge against regional economic downturns. For example, developing economies recovered more quickly than developed economies in the depths of the global financial crisis. But we're now seeing robust recoveries in many developed markets and slowing growth in emerging ones.
A better approach
An effective way to balance the benefits and risks of global diversification is by investing in domestically based companies that achieve large percentages of their revenues internationally. And one company that's an ideal example of global exposure is Mondelez International (NASDAQ: MDLZ ) , which was born out of the corporate breakup of Kraft Foods last October. The parent company, now called Mondelez, retained the higher-growth, higher-margin global snack food business. This left Kraft Foods Group (NASDAQ: KRFT ) the more sluggish North American grocery portfolio, including brands Velveeta, Oscar Mayer, and Jell-O.
As a result of the split, Mondelez gained staggering worldwide exposure. The company sells its sweet and savory goodies in 170 countries and holds the No. 1 position in the biscuits, chocolate, candy, and powdered-beverage categories worldwide. Amazingly, over 80% of Mondelez's revenues are derived outside North America, with practically half from high-growth developing markets within Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Mondelez boasts a high level of emerging-markets exposure relative to most packaged-foods companies.
This global diversification has also aided Mondelez's stock performance. During the past five years, an investment in Mondelez (using Kraft Foods data for the time period before the October 2012 corporate breakup) outperformed both the S&P 500 and an aggregate of its consumer goods peer group that includes corporate heavyweights like Coca-Cola, H. J. Heinz, and Hershey Foods (NYSE: HSY ) .
And a sweet product mix, too
Mondelez is not only diversified geographically, but also by product mix. Roughly 75% of Mondelez's revenues come from the fast-growing snacks category, including biscuits and confectionery. The company's confectionery category -- which includes chocolate, gum, and candy -- boasts brands Cadbury, Toblerone, and Trident, and contributes more than 40% of revenue.
The confectionery category is typically less threatened by private-label competition because loyal consumers are willing to pay up for their favorite sweet treats. Higher-margin confectionery also enjoys faster growth rates. Mondelez primarily competes with big-branded leaders Hershey and Switzerland-based Nestle (NASDAQOTH: NSRGY ) in this segment.
While Nestle boasts a great deal of presence internationally and presents a big threat to Mondelez's European business, Hershey doesn't even come close to its geographic diversity. The more than century-old candymaker derives only 16% of its revenues internationally. But Hershey has recently ramped up spending to boost its international presence. The maker of Kit Kat and Reese's enjoyed a very successful 2012, with sales up more than 9%. It did so by raising prices and suffering a very small hit to volumes.
On the other hand, Mondelez's cookie and cracker brands, which include Nabisco and Oreo, are more susceptible to private-label competition, particularly within Europe, where consumer acceptance of private labels is particularly high. Aside from private-label threats, Kellogg (NYSE: K ) is a major competitor in these divisions with its Famous Amos, Keebler, and Cheez-It brands. Even though Kellogg derives only one-third of its sales internationally, look for the company to experience continued growth in its established Latin American, European, and Asian markets, while likely pursuing acquisitions in other emerging markets.
Foolish bottom line
Without a doubt, Mondelez faces challenges. But its global diversification, ample international growth opportunities, and desirable product mix offer it plenty of opportunities. And give its competitors a lot to chew on.
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