If you've followed international stocks over the past few years, you've surely noticed a trend: foreign companies delisting their stocks from major U.S. exchanges.
In fact, well-known foreign companies such as British Airways, Fiat, and Bayer either announced or implemented their departure from the NYSE last year.
And we can expect this flight from New York to continue.
It's nothing personal; it's just business
Why, you ask? Put simply, the extra costs of following Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and various exchange regulations, as well as anemic trading volumes on U.S. exchanges, often outweigh the benefits for these companies.
But although some larger companies have also packed their bags, you're unlikely to see large foreign companies with high daily trading volume -- think Baidu.com (Nasdaq: BIDU ) and Vimpel Communications -- leaving Wall Street anytime soon. In these cases, it's more cost-effective (and better for public relations) to be listed in the States.
The good news is that you still have access to foreign companies that have delisted their shares: You can pick them up via the Pink Sheets.
Oh, the humanity!
The Fool typically discourages investors from patrolling the Pink Sheets, but using them to purchase quality foreign shares is an exception.
Even though companies can find it costly to follow SOX and U.S. exchange regulations, we shouldn't forget that those regulations were designed largely to protect shareholder interests, by requiring greater disclosure and adherence to U.S. GAAP. In fact, it can be much more difficult to interpret financial statements and estimate a valuation for companies not listed on a U.S. exchange.
To further help you separate the wheat from the chaff, each week we'll take a look at two top-rated foreign companies trading on the Pink Sheets, and we'll see how our 82,000-plus investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free investing community, have rated them.
A warp zone to big money?
Twenty-two years after launching the paradigm-shifting 8-bit NES system, Nintendo has returned to video-game dominance with its innovative Wii system, which allows users to control game play with motion-sensitive remote controls. Indeed, the Wii has outsold both Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Xbox 360 and Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) PlayStation 3 worldwide since its launch in November 2006.
Wii's unique design also does something that neither the Xbox 360 nor the PlayStation 3 can do: It appeals to the whole family. With just a few minutes of practice, parents, grandparents, and small children alike can participate in simple games of tennis, baseball, and golf without needing the hand-eye coordination to master a controller with 12 buttons.
Sure, Nintendo's redemption song is great, but what about the stock? Nintendo has a very strong balance sheet, with more than $5 billion in cash and equivalents and zero long-term debt, and in the past 12 months, the company has generated more than $2 billion in free cash flow.
CAPS investors are overwhelmingly bullish on Nintendo, a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice, with 1,446 of 1,462 players (that's 99%!) believing it will outperform the S&P 500 going forward.
As you might imagine, it's a bit difficult finding quality dissenting opinions on this one (want to break the mold?), but there is a plethora of good bullish pitches. CAPS player Topgrinder wrote an extensive bullish opinion on Nintendo back in February 2007 and should feel good about getting into the stock early. In his pitch, he brought up an excellent point about how Nintendo makes about $40 on each Wii console it sells, whereas Microsoft and Sony have yet to break even on their new platforms.
We don't need your stinkin' exchange
Last year, German conglomerate BASF joined the exodus from the major U.S. exchanges and hasn't looked back. As the world's largest chemical company, ahead of Dow (NYSE: DOW ) and DuPont (NYSE: DD ) , BASF is best known for being a chemical company, but in 2006, its oil and gas segment was its most profitable -- and by a lot, too. Through a subsidiary, this segment "explores and produces crude oil and natural gas" and "distributes and trades natural gas in Central and Eastern Europe."
BASF is also geographically diversified, with about 40% of its 2006 revenue coming from outside Europe. In addition, dividend-minded investors will take note of the company's 3.6% dividend yield, which has gone up with the stock 20% off its 52-week high.
CAPS investor and BASF bull Ludraman1 recently expressed a similar sentiment on the company: "High yielding stock (with dividend); 20% of net income comes from oil and gas division so they are protected against rising input costs; they are big enough to set prices; they are a good international play."
Over on CAPS, 233 of 235 of the players who have rated the stock think it will outperform the market down the road.