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The Most Expensive Brands at the Cheapest Prices

They say you can't put a price on your reputation, but when it comes to a company's reputation -- or rather, its brand -- there is definitely a price tag affixed.

Every year, the market researchers at Interbrand compile a list of the world's top brands (opens a PDF file) and determine what they're worth. Three years ago, when Motley Fool Inside Value recommended Coca-Cola to subscribers, the first thing our investing service mentioned was how long Coke has been the world's most recognized and valuable brand.

What's your brand?
From Coke to rental-car company Hertz (a new entry for 2007 at No. 100), the rise and fall of name recognition is charted. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) at No. 20, for example, made the biggest jump up the list, rising 44% in brand value. Ford (NYSE: F  ) , on the other hand, which fell the furthest at No. 41, lost 19% of its brand value.

Yet the rich values these brands carry don't necessarily apply to their stocks as well. Google's shares are down more than 25% so far this year, while No. 5 Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) has seen a 9% decline its stock. In fact, virtually all of the top 10 brands are offering investors a discount. Only Toyota (No. 6) has eked out a slim increase so far.


Brand Rank

YTD Performance as of 2/8/08




Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)






General Electric (NYSE:GE)


















Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz)



Source: Interbrand, Google Finance.

So if brand has any importance in investing, beyond taking up space on the goodwill line of a company's balance sheet, we might want to take notice. The market is offering us huge discounts on some good, if not great, companies.

A red-hot branding iron
Take a look at Intel, another Inside Value pick, whose shares have lost nearly a quarter of their value since just the start of the year. The chipmaker took a hit in its most recent quarterly report from the twin evils of failing to surpass analyst projections for revenue and profits, and issuing a cautionary forecast for the coming year.

Yet shares of the tech stalwart are trading at less than 13 times next year's earnings, even though analysts expect 16% annual growth for the next five years. Furthermore, Intel has gained market share at the expense of rival Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) .

According to market researchers at IDC, Intel had a 76.7% market share of the microprocessor market in the fourth quarter of 2007, a gain of 0.4% from the third quarter. Furthermore, this year, IDC is expecting double-digit growth in the mobile-processor business, where Intel holds a commanding 81.9% share.

Check it out
In fact, many of the top brands are cheap these days. Disney, Microsoft, and IBM all look cheap based on estimates of future earnings. Even Toyota is trading at a reasonable price.

It's said that value is where you find it. In today's market, you don't need to look any further than the tag on the collar of your shirt, the medallion on your car, or the logo on your computer. Great deals on great brands are all around you, but if you need help getting a jump start on these values, you can read all of our research and recommendations at Inside Value, including our best risk-adjusted value stocks, by joining free for 30 days.

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Rich Duprey

Rich has been a Fool since 1998 and writing for the site since 2004. After 20 years of patrolling the mean streets of suburbia, he hung up his badge and gun to take up a pen full time.

Having made the streets safe for Truth, Justice and Krispy Kreme donuts, he now patrols the markets looking for companies he can lock up as long-term holdings in a portfolio. So follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the most important industry news in retail and consumer products and other great stories.


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