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.
Well-known foreign companies such as British Airways, Adecco, and Fiat either announced for the near future or implemented their departures from the New York Stock Exchange last year.
And we can expect this flight from New York to continue.
Nothing personal; it's just business
Why, you ask? Put simply, the extra costs of following Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and various exchange regulations, along with anemic trading volumes on U.S. exchanges, often outweigh the benefits for these companies.
But although other large companies have packed their bags, you're unlikely to see large foreign companies with high daily trading volume -- think CNOOC (NYSE: CEO ) or Sasol (NYSE: SSL ) -- leaving Wall Street anytime soon. In these cases, it's often more cost-effective and better for public relations to be listed in the States.
The good news is that you can still gain access to foreign companies that have delisted their shares. You can pick them up on 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 find it costly to follow SOX and other 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 help you separate the wheat from the chaff, each week we'll take a look at a top-rated foreign company trading on the Pink Sheets, and we'll see how our 94,000-plus investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free investing community, have rated it.
This week, we'll take a look at a $3.6 billion Chinese brewery that was, oddly enough, founded by German settlers in 1903.
Guten tag, gross margins!
Based in Qingdao, Shandong Province, Tsingtao Brewery (OTC BB: TSGTY.PK) produces the best-selling beer in China -- its namesake brand, Tsingtao. Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD ) owns a 27% stake in the company; it's been an investor since 1993 and increased its stake in 2005. The Chinese government remains the company's majority shareholder.
Anheuser-Busch made a wise investment, with Tsingtao's net income growing an astounding 31% on average over the past five years while also doling out a respectable 1.1% dividend.
Competition is stiff as a plethora of local brewers and international investors such as SABMiller battle for market share in China, but Tsingtao's strong relationship with the Chinese government, its support from Anheuser-Busch, and its ubiquitous brand give Tsingtao a distinct competitive advantage.
Investors already know this, however, and these advantages are part of the reason that Tsingtao can command a lofty price-to-earnings ratio of 43. And that's following a 33% plunge in share price since mid-January! Considering that the industry average P/E is 24, you can see that investors expect continued outsized growth from Tsingtao.
Over on CAPS, 32 of 33 players who have rated the company believe Tsingtao shares will outperform the S&P 500. One such investor is Barcelona-based xfranco4bcn, who had this to say about Tsingtao in February:
Tsingtao is definitely No. 1 beer brand in China. It is a drink cheap enough to keep growing ... and [is becoming more popular in] international markets ... despite the central government ... trying to control the use of cereals [grains] for alcoholic beverages.
The Chinese government does exert some control over grain through its ownership of food importer and exporter COFCO, but even those controls may not help protect Tsingtao's margins from feeling the effects of higher foodstuff prices. Tsingtao may be able to pass those extra costs onto the consumer via higher prices, but the competitive nature of the beer business may prevent the company from adjusting prices significantly higher. That will make it much more difficult for Tsingtao to repeat its torrid growth over the next three to five years.