The Best Stock in South Korea

If you think the dollar is doomed, you aren't the only one.

My fellow Fool Tim Hanson, co-advisor for Motley Fool Global Gains, has warned for months now of the dollar's demise. So has Warren Buffett. Fortunately, neither of these guys has abandoned all hope. Even if the greenback gets a nasty case of gangrene, you still have ways to survive -- and even profit.

Your best bet may be to invest in the stocks of foreign companies that denominate revenue and earnings in stable currencies. South Korea's currency, the won, is one that Tim and Global Gains co-advisor Nate Parmelee like, and for good reason. The nation has a history of harvesting big winners that trade on American exchanges. Here's a look at the top five returners as identified by Capital IQ.

Company

Recent Price

CAPS Stars (out of 5)

One-Year U.S. Return

POSCO (NYSE: PKX  )

$104.62

*****

52%

KB Financial Group

$47.76

****

88%

LG Display (NYSE: LPL  )

$12.38

****

44%

Woori Finance Holdings (NYSE: WF  )

$38.99

***

140%

Shinhan Financial Group

$76.50

***

52%

Sources: Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's), Motley Fool CAPS, Yahoo! Finance. Data current as of Nov. 4.

Why your portfolio should like South Korea
For as much as the media portrays the Korean peninsula as one of the world's more dangerous places -- and North Korea's nuclear saber-rattling sure isn't helping -- there's plenty for investors to like about South Korea.

For one, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) likes it. The Mac maker recently struck a deal with South Korea's KT (NYSE: KTC  ) to bring the iPhone to its customers. SK Telecom (NYSE: SKM  ) is also evaluating the iPhone, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the carrier selling it next year.

A distribution agreement with SK Telecom would make sense. South Korea has one of the region's most advanced mobile networks, and Samsung is a global electronics leader whose profits dwarf those of its Japanese peers. There's a willing market, ready to buy.

And they have cash: The South Korean economy expanded by 2.9% in the third quarter -- the fastest rate in seven years, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Our 140,000-plus Motley Fool CAPS community also sees opportunity on the peninsula. Fools give four of five stars to the average South Korean stock in CAPS, which tracks eight issues trading on American exchanges. POSCOis their top overall pick. The details:

Metric

POSCO

Business Description

South Korea's premier steel manufacturer celebrated its 40th anniversary in business last year.

CAPS Stars (out of 5)

*****

Total Ratings

876

Percent Bulls

97.5%

Percent Bears

2.5%

Bullish Pitches

107 out of 109

CAPS Members Bullish on PKX Also Bullish on

Apple
Aluminum Corp. of China (NYSE: ACH  )

Data current as of Nov. 4.

Shares of POSCO have seen an incredible run over the past year and have more than doubled in the four and a half years the stock has occupied a spot on our Motley Fool Income Investor scorecard.

But is POSCO still a buy at 14 times earnings, far above its usual historic trading multiple? That depends on whether you believe growth can continue as it has. Nate expressed some concerns when I spoke with him last night:

Monster of a company in Asia and still expanding in the region. Trouble is like all steel companies, it's beholden to cycles and ultimately faces labor and material cost pressures as the cycle turns and rapid growth resumes. It has to contain these costs to remain a low-cost producer and continue to manage its balance sheet well to stay on top.

What do you think? Would you buy POSCO at today's prices? Let us know by signing up for CAPS today. It's 100% free to participate.

Every month, Tim Hanson and Nate Parmelee spotlight promising international stocks in Global Gains. Try this market-beating service risk-free for 30 days and get access to coverage of all of their recommendations, including SK Telecom.

POSCO is an Income Investor pick. Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the market-beating Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is an unapologetic globetrotter.


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  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 10:01 AM, Foolishhh wrote:

    Isn't it that Korean mobile operators are using only CDMA technology, which is not compatible with GSM-based Apple's iPhone? I heard that's among the barriers for the entry of iPhone into the Korean market, besides the WIPI thing. Is it correct? Someone please help to enlighten me.

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