Even though U.S. blue chips like Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD) have helped investors accumulate fortunes in the past, the temptation to look abroad for the world's best dividend stocks remains strong.

Many foreign stocks offer higher dividend yields than their U.S. counterparts. For example, Italy's Eni SpA (NYSE: E) doles out a gracious 4.4% dividend, versus U.S.-based ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), which gives out just 1.6%.

Not all created equal
Despite the tremendous opportunities available to generate income from companies abroad, stateside investors need to know about a couple of things before stamping their passports:

  • Dividend regularity -- or lack thereof. Foreign-company dividends can indeed be larger than U.S. companies', but they're often less regular in timing and amount. Companies abroad like to pay a target percentage of earnings, instead of a certain cash value every year. Don't knock it: Freed from the pressure to lowball their payouts, these companies can pay you more over the long haul.
  • Dividend taxation. Foreign countries (except for those in the U.K.) can scalp you at their going rate. Still, most countries in which you're likely to invest have tax treaties with the United States, so you can claim a credit for the tax withheld. But here's the rub: Because a credit offsets taxes you would have otherwise paid, it's smart to hold foreign stocks in a taxable account. In other words, skip the IRA if you're going abroad.

Of course, not all foreign dividend stocks are created equal. So each week, we'll highlight a five-star foreign dividend payer with the assistance of the 85,000 investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free investing community. After all, having a second (or 300th!) pair of eyes can help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Una cerveza, por favor  
With Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP) trading with P/E ratios below 20, why would anyone want to consider another large brewer trading at 30? A strong case, however, might be made for Companhia de Bebidas Das Americas (NYSE: ABV), known colloquially as simply "AmBev."

Based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, AmBev distributes beer and other beverages across 14 countries in the Americas, including the United States, through its Labatt's brand. It is also the brewer of "Skol," the third-most consumed beer (no, not chewing tobacco) in the world. Moreover, it's the largest PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) bottling company outside of the U.S. and distributes Pepsi products like Gatorade, Lipton Iced Tea, and Pepsi across the Americas.

On the dividend front, the stock yields 1.4%. While that dividend yield won't blow your socks off, keep in mind that foreign companies generally pay out a percentage of profits, instead of a target dollar amount (as mentioned above). For example, according to AmBev's 2006 annual report, "AmBev's by-laws provide for a minimum mandatory dividend of 35% of the company's annual net income, as determined by Brazilian Corporate law accounting principles." In 2006, the company paid a bit more than the minimum, doling out 44% of earnings to shareholders.

How will AmBev perform going forward? CAPS investors are overwhelmingly bullish on the shares, with 158 of the 162 players who have rated the stock believing it will outperform the S&P 500. Most bulls believe the company's well-fortified position in the fast-growing South American market will translate into outsized profits.

In this Fool's opinion, however, AmBev's current valuation appears a bit frothy. Sure, the company has a good foothold in South America and distributes non-cyclical products, but justifying a P/E of 30 for a $52 billion consumer staples company is difficult, particularly given higher commodity costs thath have been hurting the whole brewing industry. If AmBev shares decline back into the $60s, take a closer look, but I'll remain a spectator at these prices.

What do you think about AmBev -- or any other stock, for that matter? Make your voice heard on Motley Fool CAPS today.

Want some more dividend ideas? Discover our full Foolish list of dividend dynamos with Motley Fool Income Investor, free for 30 days.

For the record, Fool contributor Todd Wenning's favorite Philly cheesesteak is not Pat's or Geno's -- it's Larry's on 54th and City Avenue. He does not own shares of any company mentioned. Anheuser-Busch is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice. The Fool's disclosure policy is going streaking through the quad and into the gymnasium.