Perhaps because it was such a foregone conclusion, no one noticed the watershed event that took place when the Rule Maker port purchased Nokia (NYSE: NOK). This purchase marked the first time that any Motley Fool portfolio has held a foreign-based company. It has been fair dictum at the Fool that investors should approach international investing with great caution, so let me reiterate that our purchase of Nokia does not change how we believe internationally listed companies should be treated by American investors.

Simply put, there are some wonderful opportunities for investors in many countries, but we should be sure that we give special consideration to the added risks that we take by investing overseas. This is not a matter of "America is great" chauvinism, but more a recognition of the fact that the regulatory protection and information disclosure requirements afforded by American regulators are the most strict of any country on earth. Nokia, for example, is a Finnish company, and only lists in the U.S. through an American Depositary Receipt (ADR). ADRs are only required to file an annual 20-F report in the U.S., which does not have to be compliant with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Nokia gives us a much greater level of comfort since it does file quarterly reports, as is required in Finland, and these reports are freely available on Nokia's website in Finnish and International Accounting Standards. Other countries' accounting standards, most notably Germany's, are fairly worthless for analyzing operations of their listed companies. So, a word to the Foolish -- be careful, and make sure your due diligence is sound before you leap.

Now, back to the issue at hand -- the monthly allocation of $500 to the Rule Maker portfolio. On Monday, Matt made a strong case for buying additional shares of American Express (NYSE: AXP). I concur, for all of the reasons he gave. In fact, I have as recently as December advocated that we purchase American Express, due in no small part to its strong positioning in the discount brokerage industry.

More importantly, as Matt pointed out, the newly anointed Cash King Margin for American Express is in excess of $0.26 per dollar of operating revenues. Glory BE, that's good! And American Express has been lately squashed by the market in reflection of the fears that interest rates will continue going up, thereby lowering the demand for consumer credit, and making the company's own debt portfolio more expensive. I submit that American Express has such a low cost of capital that these fears are pretty much unfounded. But Matt said it better when he reminded all of us that interest rates are forever going to fluctuate, so unless we are timing the market (bad idea), we should not concern ourselves so much with where those rates are right now, or where they're going in the shorter term.

As they say in France -- exactement!

And yet, I am going to go down the same road as Matt, but opt to recommend a different one of our laggards -- woebegone Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO). Yes, down-27%-since-we-bought-it Coke.

Coke has undergone some pretty trying events over the last year. The company's woes began in earnest with the bloodying of its income statement by the economic turmoil in many of its growth markets, antitrust allegations in Europe, the health scares in Belgium and Poland, and finishing with the sudden (but not unexpected here in Fooldom) resignation of CEO Doug Ivester. Coke now has a new leader, former Coke Japan chief Douglas Daft, who has announced a significant restructuring and cost-cutting plan, has written down more than $800 million of stranded assets, and is refocusing efforts on growing market share in many growth markets.

And let's not forget that Coca-Cola still holds the world's most valuable brand name. For all of its short-term woes, Coca-Cola Company remains a bona fide Rule Maker, with marketing power that is unparalleled in commerce.

And therein lies my real motivation for wanting to put the monthly investment into Coke. We have bought the Rule Makers and are determined to hold them for many years -- and hopefully decades. We have one in the lot that has been savaged mightily by the market and by the financial media, and has to recover from some wounds, many of them self-inflicted: Coke.

But is there evidence that Coke will rebound? You bet. The company invested millions of dollars in improving its facilities in India, China, and Indonesia, among other places, during the 1998 economic crisis, using the depressed economies and local currencies to have massive infrastructure improvements made at a tremendous discount to asset value. The company has again taken on a focus in reducing inventories and improving its cash conversion cycle (the amount of time from when a product is manufactured to when the company is paid). Finally, Coke saw a 10.4% growth rate in revenues -- ahead of our 10% sales growth benchmark -- in the fourth quarter of 1999 over the same quarter in 1998, the largest such gain in two years. This, in spite of the ban on Coke products in many markets.

But deeper, here's the thing: The best time in the world to buy a great company is when everyone else is afraid of it, or hates it. I am confident that our original decision process to buy Coca-Cola was sound, and that the company's prospects have not materially changed. And as such, since the company has made several needed refinements to its cash management, I believe that the market, in its infinite wisdom, is giving us the opportunity to arbitrage a short-term weakness at Coca-Cola against a greater, longer-term strength.

So, as the advertising campaign in Japan once said: "I feel Coke!"

And finally, one note I wanted to mention yesterday. I only know one person born on February 29, and since she only gets to have one once every four years, excuse me just for a moment while I wish Elva Green a most wonderful birthday.

Elsewhere in Fooldom today, there's a a Flat Tax Duel going on -- and I'm in favor.

Fool on.

Bill Mann, TMF Otter on the Fool boards