Yes, this inflammatory title seems like it could be the header for some penny-stock spam -- albeit some conservative penny-stock spam. After all, returns like this -- which, if kept up, will deliver 861% annually -- just don't happen in efficient markets.
And that's true. Market efficiency is not the friend of market outperformance.
But you could have earned 60% in the past five weeks if you'd bought Compania Anonima Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela
Here's how it went down
CANTV, as that lengthy name is otherwise known, is Venezuela's telecommunications giant. As such, it attracted the attention of President Hugo Chavez and his so-called socialist revolution, who wanted to nationalize the company. Back in early January, Chavez vowed to nationalize CANTV without regard to the interests of foreign investors -- causing the stock to drop 50% in a matter of hours.
The stock stayed down as Chavez maintained his socialist shtick:
"I have to pay first? You're crazy. I'm not paying anything first. I'll pay when the law says so, and in the manner that the state decides."
Given that the words "law" and "state" can be roughly translated here to mean "I," the outlook was bleak for CANTV investors, a group that included U.S. telecom giant Verizon
Something is better than nothing
But then the unthinkable happened. News started circulating that Venezuela might pay Verizon to acquire its stake. The stock jumped, and it's continued to rise toward the $17.85-per-share takeover price the two parties finally agreed upon.
Of course, it's not all sunshine and cherries. That $17.85 price tag is only about 85% of what CANTV would be worth in a fair exchange. Still, anyone who bought shares of CANTV when the outlook was bleak has reaped a pretty nice gain in just a little more than a month.
Although you may be glad you didn't
It would have taken a seriously steely disposition to start snapping up shares of CANTV when Chavez's rhetoric was at its fieriest. After all, in a worst-case scenario, CANTV investors faced the prospect of total capital loss with no recourse.
But as I said, market efficiency is not the friend of market outperformance. And the market starts to become inefficient only when faced with the doomsday scenarios. When that happens, stocks get oversold -- meaning they're selling for less than they're intrinsically worth.
So what is the friend of market outperformance? The oversold stock, of course.
More to the story
Think back to November 1998 and the Attorney General's "Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement." This stipulated that there would be marketing restrictions, lobbying restrictions, reimbursement for state attorneys' fees, and billions in upfront and annual payments levied against the tobacco industry.
Although this settlement ended an uncertain situation, the monetary terms of the deal were huge and it was unclear how all of the clauses would affect business going forward.
As a result, Altria
Since then, however, it's been quite a different story. Despite their product, business has continued to be strong for these companies. Each has more than doubled since 2000 -- with Reynolds up more than 500%.
Which brings me back to Venezuela
Just as tobacco is a disagreeable industry, Venezuela is a disagreeable country. What the two have in common, though, is that both caused wary investors to oversell their stocks to avoid total capital loss. Investors who were able to see through the fear, however, bought the stocks for cheap and have earned great returns as a result.
The key is to be able to see through the fear. In that regard, I believe contrary investors will be presented with a huge opportunity very soon to buy some choice international stocks for far less than they're intrinsically worth. Why? Here's how I see it ...
Hot money has been rushing into foreign markets at record rates in order to chase huge returns. But foreign markets, and particularly emerging markets, are volatile for any number of political and economic reasons. At the first sign of trouble, this hot money will flee the sector, causing entire markets to be oversold.
The Foolish bottom line
That's where our opportunity will be. Since emerging markets are growing much more rapidly than the United States, it will be an investor's dream to be able to pick up these markets on the cheap.
We just need to be patient, and we need to know where to look when it happens.
While we can't help you with the patience, if you'd like some help knowing where to look when the time comes, consider joining our Motley Fool Global Gains international investing service. We've already found a number of mispriced international equities, and we expect to find many more. Click here to try the service free for the next month with no obligation to subscribe.