More than half of the world's market cap now sits outside the United States, and the largest IPO in history now belongs to a Chinese bank -- ICBC. This distinction could be temporary, depending on how Japan proceeds with its postal savings bank. Either way, it means that many of the world's most established and dynamic growth opportunities are not American companies.

Scouring the globe for value
Successful international investing requires many of the same skills required to evaluate a U.S. company. But in addition to understanding the fundamentals of a business, international investing requires understanding some of the things we take for granted here in the U.S., because we live and breathe them. A few of these factors are economic policy, political currents, corporate governance, accounting standards, and cultural factors that are at work in different countries. In our recently launched Motley Fool Global Gains service, we take these factors and others into account to scour the planet looking for the most attractive opportunities for subscribers.

I don't have a handful of thoroughly researched ideas to offer you here, but I'm having fun mining our new Motley Fool CAPS service to see what other investors are thinking. What is Motley Fool CAPS, you ask? It's a community-intelligence database that asks investors to rate stocks. In turn, every investor is ranked, as is every stock. So as more people participate and more time passes, we hope to be able to determine the best investor and the best stock in America -- and, potentially, the world.

Six all-star foreign companies
The following three stocks all have market caps of more than $15 billion and are rated as five-star picks (the highest possible) by the CAPS community.


Market Cap

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (NYSE:BBV)

$81.6 billion

Norsk Hydro (NYSE:NHY)

$36.4 billion

Korea Electric Power (NYSE:KEP)

$28.7 billion

And the following three companies all have market caps of less than $5 billion and have five-star ratings. As you might expect, these companies aren't exactly household names.


Market Cap

Companhia de Saneamento Basico do Estado de Sao Paulo (NYSE:SBS)

$3.8 billion

LAN Airlines (NYSE:LFL)

$3.3 billion

Gruma (NYSE:GMK)

$1.8 billion

In CAPS, you'll also find ratings on all of the exchange-traded funds that track the markets around the globe. You can most easily invest in Italy, for example, with the iShares MSCI Italy (AMEX:EWI) ETF.

When you go digging for the world's best stock ideas, it's still crucial to do your due diligence. If you'd like to get started doing just that, come and see what our CAPS investors are actually saying about these companies. To do so, just follow the link to join the free beta test of CAPS today.

Nathan Parmelee is a contributing analyst to Global Gains. At the time of publication, he had no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned. Norsk Hydro is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.