3 Contrarian Plays for the Ukrainian Crisis

As the markets react in fear, contrarian investors could find some attractive investments.

Mar 18, 2014 at 8:01AM

On Sunday, Crimeans overwhelming voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The news came as little surprise, and the events have since been criticized by the United States and the European Union, both of which are busy slapping sanctions on Russia.

As one of the biggest events since the Cold War continues, investors are presented with a few ways to buy on the cheap as fear flows in the markets.

Exchange-traded funds
For now, there is no Ukraine ETF, but there are plenty of Russia ETFs. One of my favorites is the iShares Russia Capped ETF (NYSEMKT:ERUS) which has a 10-day average daily volume of nearly a million shares providing sufficient liquidity. It's also one of the higher-yielding ETFs, yielding around 3%.

Another one of my top ETFs for Russia is the Market Vectors Russia Index ETF (NYSEMKT:RSX). This ETF also yields around 3% but has a 10-day average trading volume of nearly ten million shares.

Both ETFs offer investors a way to gain exposure to Russian stocks across many industries. Although the ETFs do come with expense ratios of around 0.6%, they still remain one of the cheaper ways for retail investors to gain exposure to Russian stocks.

Industry-specific play
If you're looking for a really contrarian pick, Russian energy giant Gazprom (NASDAQOTH:OGZPY) finds itself right in the middle of Russian politics. Formed out of the USSR Gas Industry Ministry in 1989, Gazprom was eventually converted into a joint stock company where the Russian government has a 51% stake.

Being both under control of the Russian government and exporting a product that could see new sanctions, Gazprom may be the most contrarian play in the Ukrainian crisis.

But for the risk Gazprom investors take, they can get an energy giant for less than three times earnings -- a level well below the average of other energy giants, and even below the valuation of the broader Russian market. Although Gazprom has traded at a discount to peers for quite some time, the latest dip in Russian stocks has depressed its valuation even further, and a solution to the crisis could allow Gazprom shares to rebound.

Ukrainian play
With no Ukraine ETFs, it's difficult for U.S. investors to invest in Ukraine. But with access to the London Stock Exchange (available in most international trading accounts), U.S. investors can buy shares of UKRPRODUCT Group (LSE:UKR). The company produces dairy products in Ukraine for both domestic sale and export to other European countries.

Volume is very low for this company, so investors will need to be patient with their orders. As with most low-volume stock situations, using limit orders as opposed to market orders will help ensure a fairer purchase price.

Shares of this Ukrainian company have dipped as the crisis intensified, but if tensions ease, the business model should emerge largely intact. Therefore, investors wanting to invest directly in Ukraine should consider UKRPRODUCT as a way to play this country's rebound.

Profiting from the crisis
Often times, the best deals come when most people are afraid of what will happen next. With valuations on Russian stocks at rock-bottom, investors are already pricing in major problems ahead.

While the existence of future problems cannot be ruled out, investors willing to assume some risk in exchange for getting stocks on the cheap should take a further look at Russian ETFs, Gazprom, and UKRPRODUCT.

Three home-grown energy companies getting ready to take on Russia
Russia say sanctions on its oil and natural gas would only hurt western powers. But three American energy companies could prove Russia wrong by supplying energy for the United States and Western Europe. For this reason, the Motley Fool is offering a comprehensive look at three energy companies set to soar during this transformation in the energy industry. To find out which three companies are spreading their wings, check out the special free report, "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza." Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free. 

Alexander MacLennan has no position in any stocks mentioned. This article is not an endorsement to buy or sell any security and does not constitute professional investment advice. Always do your own due diligence before buying or selling any security. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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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