American-Iranian relations have always been shaky, most recently because America wants Iran to stop its nuclear energy program and because the U.S. is allies with Iran's rival, Saudi Arabia. In total, Iran and Saudi Arabia supply 17% of the world's crude oil. Most of that oil is transported via ocean tanker to other countries. The tankers all pass through the Strait of Hormuz.
Strategically stationed in Bahrain, a tiny nation just off the coast of Saudi Arabia, the U.S. 5th Fleet is tasked with patrolling the Strait of Hormuz and the East African coast. Over the past few years there have been several uprisings against the Sunni government that controls Bahrain. Some of these uprisings have gotten so violent that Saudi Arabia has sent military assistance to Bahrain.
If the U.S. was forced to intervene, oil prices would skyrocket because of the chokehold on the main crude oil corridor for the region. This action would shock the world's crude supply.
Regardless of the political situation in the Middle East, the following two stocks are in good shape. They are, however, especially well positioned to profit in case there is unrest in the Strait of Hormuz.
The first is Statoil (NYSE:STO), a Norwegian based oil company. Most of Statoil's assets are not located in the Middle East, so the company would be able to capitalize on the rise in oil prices. Statoil's 3.8% dividend payout is another one of the stock's highlights. Statoil recently reported its third quarter financial results, announcing that it had "strong exploration results...in the Flemish Pass basin offshore Canada and several new discoveries on the Norwegian continental shelf." The profits generated by these new discoveries will likely show up in earnings reports in a few years, making Statoil a great long-term play. Statoil will also continue exploration in the oil-fertile Flemish Pass basin offshore Canada.
Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU) is another great stock to buy in the event of unrest in the Middle East. Most of Suncor Energy's assets are in Canada; the company does engage is business in the Middle East, but not in countries that would likely be affect by closure of the Strait of Hormuz. Warren Buffett has also given his seal of approval: Berkshire Hathaway owns 1.2% of the company.
Suncor Energy is largely involved with oil sands production; when crude oil prices drop below $95 it hurts the company. However, in the event of unrest in the Middle East the firm would fare very well in the wake of high crude prices. As a cherry on top, Suncor Energy also pays a modest 2.2% dividend.
Global oil supply levels constantly wax and wane, and some firms will be harder hit than others by oil-related problems in the Middle East. The two companies mentioned above are great long-term plays and will generate income for investors through dividend payouts and capital gains through stellar performance. Since both companies are in relatively safe drilling areas and have proven crude reserves, investors should be able to sleep well with these two winners in their portfolios.
Fool contributor Jesse Atlas has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Statoil (ADR). 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.