3 Ways to Profit From Economic Growth in Latin America

PVH, Gap, and Wal-Mart all stand to benefit from economic growth throughout Latin America. However, one of them should offer more growth potential than the other two.

Jan 30, 2014 at 2:13PM

Latin America is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world from an economic standpoint. For instance, according to Cegid -- a retail software-solutions company that offers detailed reports on stock, sales, customers, and employees -- retail spending in Brazil is expected to increase 11% this year. The 2014 World Cup will play a big role. Momentum is likely to continue thanks to the 2016 Olympics also being held in Brazil.

Cegid estimates that luxury malls and airport stores will be the biggest beneficiaries, and that Tiffany might benefit in a big way. But Tiffany isn't the focal point here. There are other companies that stand to benefit more, and on a broader scale, from increased consumer spending in Latin America. 

Investing in style
Based on the same report, disposable income in Chile increased 10% over the past year. A lot of this money is being spent at malls and hypermarkets. Thanks to PVH's (NYSE:PVH) purchase of Warnaco Group, which was completed in early 2013, the company has established a strong presence in Latin America.

PVH Chairman and CEO Emanuel Chirico stated: "This combination reunites The House of Calvin Klein and enables us to leverage Warnaco's established operations in Asia and Latin America along with our strong operations in North America and Europe to fuel our growth strategies for the Calvin Klein brand."

It also doesn't hurt that Chile's Santiago Mall -- the largest mall in South America -- is expected to grow. South American consumers are mostly interested in Tommy Hilfiger, but PVH also offers Calvin Klein, Van Heusen, IZOD, and Arrow as well as other licensed brands. Consider this to be similar to the early stages of popularity for these brands in the United States. While the growth isn't likely to be as strong as what transpired in the United States, it's significant growth potential, nonetheless. 

Targeting a broad range of consumers
Gap (NYSE:GPS) is known for offering quality at affordable prices. This, in turn, is what attracts many consumers to its stores. Gap doesn't just have its namesake brand, but Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta, which leads to targeting an even broader range of consumers.

Gap opened its first store in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last year. Brazil isn't just the largest economy in Latin America but also the sixth-most-populated country in the world. The rising middle class in Brazil is fashion-conscious. Additionally, 62% of Brazil's population is younger than 29 years of age, and younger consumers tend to be more interested in fashion. China might have more economic growth potential than Brazil given its massive population, but Brazilian consumers are much more interested in apparel than Chinese consumers.

Gap has 17 namesake stores and eight Banana Republic stores throughout South America, and it's focused on expanding in Colombia, Uruguay, and Peru. Consumer spending is up in Uruguay, and this trend is likely to continue as the company gains more independence from Brazil and Argentina. Panama is seeing infrastructure growth and rising tourism, and according to Cegid, it's one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Gap is also now situated in Mexico, where interest rates are low, per capita spending is up, the population is growing, and the job market is strengthening. Needless to say, Gap has significant growth potential throughout Latin America. And speaking of Mexico...

Consistent and significant growth
Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) opened its first store -- a Sam's Club -- in Mexico back in 1991. Six years later, it acquired Cifra. Three years after that, it changed its name to Walmart de Mexico. In 2006, it received a license to operate a bank. One year later, Banco de Walmart had 16 branches in five Mexican states. It doesn't end there. In 2009, Walmart de Mexico acquired Walmart Centroamerica, expanding to six countries and becoming Walmart de Mexico y Centroamerica.

Currently, Wal-Mart has a strong presence in Mexico (2,498 stores) as well as Brazil (553 stores), Argentina (103 stores), Chile (346 stores), Honduras (75 stores), Costa Rica (214 stores), Nicaragua (80 stores), El Salvador (84 stores), and Guatemala (209 stores).

If Latin America is seeing economic growth, then Wal-Mart is certainly well positioned to benefit from that growth. No surprise there.

The bottom line
The majority of Latin America is seeing increased consumer spending. PVH, Gap, and Wal-Mart are three American companies that are likely to benefit from this growth. Wal-Mart offers the broadest exposure, but Gap likely has the most growth potential in Latin America since its presence is still small. Please conduct your own research prior to making any investment decisions. 

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