Are you wondering what the best international investment will be for 2007? And you're eagerly awaiting my answer? Well, I suspect it might be anticlimactic, because ... I just don't know. That said, I've been impressed by a bunch of international companies and I do have high expectations for some, too. Permit me to introduce you to one of my favorites: Cemex (NYSE:CX).

It's a modest little company based in Mexico that deals in a very glamorous product: cement. OK, it does sell cement, but it has little to be modest about. Here's a description of the company, in its own words:

We are a growing global building-solutions company that produces, distributes, and markets cement, ready-mix concrete, aggregates, and related building materials to customers and communities in more than 50 countries. Over the past century, we have grown from a local player to one of the top global companies in our industry. Today we are strategically positioned in the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. As one of the world's largest cement traders, we maintain trade relationships with approximately 90 nations.

Did you know?
Believe it or not, cement is actually a very interesting (and important) material. You may not realize it, but it's not the same thing as concrete. Concrete is made of cement -- and sand and crushed rock. And cement itself is made from limestone, calcium, silicon, iron, and aluminum, among other lesser ingredients. Initial cement slurry is heated to about 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. It then takes marble-like form, and those bits are ground up and combined with gypsum into the powder we're all familiar with. Here's what's most fascinating to me: Mixing cement with water is what starts it hardening. So those cement trucks you see spinning their drums aren't able to keep the stuff soft by spinning -- they're racing against the clock, because their wet contents are hardening.

But let's return to the company as an investment. Here are some stats:

  • First batch of cement made: 1906
  • Market cap: $25 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.9%
  • 2005 free cash flow: $2.68 billion
  • 2005 return on equity: 23.5%
  • Sales growth: 20.7% CAGR over the past five years
  • Stock price appreciation: 20.4% per annum since being listed on the NYSE in 1999

Also of note is that the company recently made a $12.8 billion bid for Australian competitor Rinker (NYSE:RIN). If the firms end up merging, the combination will be the world's largest aggregate company ("aggregate" is an industry term for concrete components sand and gravel).

Learn more
If you're now eager to learn more about this company, I encourage you to read up on it. Bill Mann wrote about it back in 2003, and it has gained 216% since then -- not bad, eh? More recently, Will Frankenhoff wrote about the company's merits.

Fool co-founder Tom Gardner liked Cemex so much he recommended it to subscribers of his Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter service in September of this year. If you're interested in learning more about Tom's Cemex thesis (and all of the picks he's made in Stock Advisor) I invite you to test-drive the newsletter for free.

What do you think?
So what do you think? Is Cemex a top contender for 2007, or do you favor other international stalwarts, such as Nokia, which recently announced that device volumes for its third quarter were up 33% year over year to 89 million units, or Toyota, which recently reported best-ever October sales, up 15% over year-ago levels? Or maybe you prefer cement competitors such as France's Lafarge (NYSE:LR)?

Register your opinion in our new Motley Fool CAPS investing community service. You can rate Cemex to "outperform" or "underperform" the market. (Last time I checked, some 450 participants expected it to outperform, versus eight with bearish perspectives.) Based on the responses of our readers and participants, we'll declare the international stock of 2007 early next week.

Go here for the complete list of contenders in our CAPS international-stock tournament.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of no company mentioned in this article. Last time she checked, she was ranked 1,410 out of 13,857 in CAPS. For more about Selena, viewher bio and her profile. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.