Collect Hefty Dividends Abroad

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If you're looking for dividend income and you also want to diversify your portfolio into some international holdings, you could do far worse than opting for some global exchange-traded funds (ETFs). But you might do even better than that, by investing in some well-regarded international stocks that sport hefty dividend yields.

Let's consider the ETFs first, though. One solid choice would be the WisdomTree Emerging Markets Equity Income ETF (NYSE: DEM  ) , which yields about 4.5%. Its expense ratio (annual fee) is 0.63%, which, like most ETFs, is far lower than that of most stock mutual funds. And its performance has been solid, beating its benchmark over the past three years, on average. Yielding 6.7% over the past 12 months is the SPDR S&P International Dividend ETF (NYSE: DWX  ) , with an expense ratio of just 0.45% and a similarly strong track record.

Investing in foreign companies can be tricky, since many economies are considerably less stable than ours, and most of us are just not that familiar with many global enterprises. By focusing on ETFs that not only invest internationally but also seek dividend income, you're adding a bit of stability, because dividend-paying companies tend to have more reliable earnings.

Another key advantage of choosing the ETF route is that you'll minimize your efforts. Once you do enough research to decide which ETF(s) you want, you can leave your money in their managers' hands, checking in periodically to see how they're doing.

Individual companies
If you're willing to do more work, though, you can rake in more dividend income than these ETFs offer as you focus on a handful of promising dividend-paying companies. Here are a few to consider.

Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (NYSE: BIP  ) sports a yield of about 5.6%, and makes its money by investing in infrastructure-ish properties in the utilities, energy, transportation, and timber arenas. For example, the Bermuda-based company operates a port in Australia that exports coal, thousands of kilometers of transmission lines in Chile, and more than 15,000 kilometers of natural gas pipelines in the U.S., among other things. The company's partnership structure is different from most companies' corporate structures, but it's worth a close look for its strength and growth.

SeaDrill (NYSE: SDRL  ) , based in Bermuda and yielding about 9%, is an offshore drilling contractor, likely to keep benefiting from our world's dependence on oil for many years. Its capabilities in deepwater drilling make it attractive, along with Switzerland-based counterpart Transocean (NYSE: RIG  ) , yielding 5.7%. New regulations following the big Gulf spill could make life a little more difficult for these companies in their U.S. operations, but their businesses have been growing. Seadrill's revenue is up by about a quarter over the past year, for example.

Telecom giant Telefonica (NYSE: TEF  ) is based in Spain, which might not generate dollar signs in your eyes, given Europe's current fiscal woes. But the company with a $91 billion market cap is also a major player in faster-growing Latin America, where it has been investing heavily. The company's trailing dividend yield is pushing 10%, and it has been growing briskly in recent years.

Based in France, Veolia Environnement (NYSE: VE  ) operates in the critical area of environmental management. Among other things, it offers water treatment services, industrial cleaning, and garbage collection and recycling. It's the largest publicly traded water specialist and its yield of more than 10% accompanies a dividend that has grown substantially in recent years. Water companies have seen demand sag as many municipalities have been hit hard by the recent recession, but these governments can't put off upgrades and services for too long, and some may soon be opting to outsource their water treatment work to companies such as Veolia.

Whether you take the easy route or the less easy but potentially more lucrative route, it's smart to include dividend payers and international stocks in your portfolio -- and dividend-paying international stocks make it all simpler.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see her holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Telefonica, Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, and Transocean. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Brookfield Infrastructure Partners and Veolia Environnement. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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