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Europe is still troublesome for many investors as the region grapples with the possibility of of deflation, slow economic growth, and debt concerns in peripheral nations. But from all this fear, some good values have become available. To find these two, I have focused on companies that pay a dividend, have a global reach, and trade at an attractive valuation.
Insurance has a diverse field of competitors and can be hugely profitable if you have the next Berkshire Hathaway or portfolio-destroying if you have the next American International Group. Most other insurance companies fall somewhere between these two and have a fair level of stability while paying consistent dividends.
Aegon (NYSE: AEG ) is a Dutch insurance company that looks pretty attractive right now. Trading below tangible book value and with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of less than 9, Aegon NV looks priced as a distressed company tied to entirely to Europe's economy.
While the company does have some peripheral exposure, it's far more than just another European insurance company. Aegon NV has found its way into the U.S. as owner of Transamerica and is part of a 50/50 joint venture to sell life insurance in China. With this international diversification, Aegon NV looks undervalued and priced like less diversified European stocks.
Dividend seekers should also consider Aegon NV. With a 3.3% dividend, Aegon NV carries a higher yield than U.S. insurers Prudential Financial, MetLife, and AIG.
With the average age of cars on the road in the U.S. hitting an all-time record and the emerging middle class in developing economies continuing to drive up worldwide automotive demand, auto manufacturers appear to be in an excellent position to profit.
But not all automakers are equally good investments. For a large-scale approach to auto manufacturing, Volkswagen (NASDAQOTH: VLKAY ) is tough to beat. Major acquisitions have seen Volkswagen become far more than just the Volkswagen brand. Today, the company owns not only the large-volume Volkswagen brand but also the luxury brands Porsche, Audi, and Bentley.
Although based in Germany, Volkswagen is a worldwide powerhouse. In addition to selling cars in North America, Volkswagen is also a major force in China, where it claimed the top spot in 2013, selling nearly 2.4 million vehicles in the country. Even with this growth potential, Volkswagen still trades at less than 10 times forward earnings, giving investors an attractive combination of value and growth.
Volkswagen also gives investors a dividend of nearly 2%, a level competitive with those of Honda (NYSE: HMC ) and Toyota (NYSE: TM ) . If earnings continue to grow, more automakers could boost their dividends, and with Volkswagen's position in China, the company is among the best positioned to do so.
The bottom line
Aegon and Volkswagen are both worldwide companies with European-level valuations. This creates a situation where investors can grab attractive companies at reasonable valuations.
Dividends are another strong point for these companies, but investors should consider dividend withholding taxes. The Netherlands has a 15% dividend withholding tax, and Germany's is 26.38% (although there is a procedure to reclaim 11.375%). However, many U.S. investors could reduce their U.S. tax liability by noting foreign taxes on their returns. Before making an investment in these companies, investors should consult a tax professional regarding the treatment of foreign dividends.
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