If you've followed international stocks over the past few years, you've surely noticed a trend: foreign companies delisting their stocks from major U.S. exchanges.
In fact, well-known foreign companies such as British Airways, Fiat, and Bayer either announced or implemented their departure from the NYSE last year.
And we can expect this flight from New York to continue.
It's nothing personal; it's just business
Why, you ask? Put simply, the extra costs of following Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and various exchange regulations, as well as anemic trading volumes on U.S. exchanges, often outweigh the benefits for these companies.
But although some larger companies have also packed their bags, you're unlikely to see large foreign companies with high daily trading volume -- think Baidu.com
The good news is that you still have access to foreign companies that have delisted their shares: You can pick them up on the Pink Sheets.
Oh, the humanity!
The Fool typically discourages investors from patrolling the Pink Sheets, but using them to purchase quality foreign shares is an exception.
Even though companies can find it costly to follow SOX and other U.S. exchange regulations, we shouldn't forget that those regulations were designed largely to protect shareholder interests, by requiring greater disclosure and adherence to U.S. GAAP. In fact, it can be much more difficult to interpret financial statements and estimate a valuation for companies not listed on a U.S. exchange.
To further help you separate the wheat from the chaff, each week we'll take a look at two top-rated foreign companies trading on the Pink Sheets, and we'll see how our 83,000-plus investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free investing community, have rated them.
Texas tea served cold
If you're in the market for a large oil conglomerate and can handle the extra political and economic risks associated with Russia, Lukoil (OTC BB: LUKOY.PK) is worth your attention. It has the world's second-largest proven oil and gas reserves, behind only those of ExxonMobil
From a financial standpoint, Lukoil has grown net income by 37% per year on average over the past five years, and it posted a 25% return on equity in 2006.
Despite these impressive figures, though, there are plenty of risks to consider when you're researching Lukoil. The biggest, of course, is political risk. Just recall what happened to Yukos to grasp how large the political perils can become with Russian stocks.
On the other hand, oil and gas are by far Russia's largest exports and have been the driver of the nation's economy for the past few years, so for the government to make things hard on Lukoil would also make things hard for the entire Russian economy. Logically, at least, making things difficult wouldn't make much sense.
Over on CAPS, investors are overwhelmingly bullish on Lukoil, with 110 of 111 believing it will outperform the S&P 500 going forward. The lone Lukoil bear on CAPS is dcrednek, who believes the political risks associated with Lukoil outweigh its potential benefits and advises investors to avoid the company altogether. "There are many better plays in this sector right now," dcrednek writes, "so take a look elsewhere if you want to make some money in the oil business."
Smart Swiss shopper
Roche Holding (OTC BB: RHHBY.PK) may be the biggest company you've never heard of. As the Swiss Exchange's largest company in market-cap terms, this $158 billion pharmaceutical and diagnostics giant is even larger than well-known U.S. competitors Merck
In the past year, Roche has been on a spending spree that has added the likes of BioVeris and, more recently, Ventana to its portfolio. And with more than $21 billion in cash and short-term investments on its balance sheet at the end of 2007, Roche is in a good position to further indulge its voracious appetite for small health-care companies.
CAPS investor and Roche bull pilarcity recently praised the company's "very strong marketed products and excellent pipeline." In 2007, Roche launched its anemia treatment Mircera in Europe, but the company has yet to sell the drug in the U.S. because of an ongoing legal battle with Amgen
Over on CAPS, all 35 players who have rated the stock think it will outperform the market down the road.
Fool contributor Todd Wenning is ranked 303 out of more than 83,000 investors participating in CAPS. He does not own shares of any company mentioned. Baidu.com is a Rule Breakers selection. The Fool's disclosure policy always has a five-star rating.