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 HSBC (NYSE: HBC) and Petroleo Brasileiro (NYSE: PBR) -- leaving Wall Street anytime soon. In these cases, it's often more cost-effective (and better for public relations) to be listed in the States.

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.

This week we'll take a look at two top-rated foreign brewers.

Australian for "value"?
When Americans think of Foster's (FBRWY.PK), they typically think of Foster's Lager and its commercials that proclaim, "Foster's: Australian for beer." While the lager enjoys popularity throughout most of the world, it is (oddly enough) unpopular in Australia. Luckily for Foster's, its lager isn't the only brand in its portfolio. Though Foster's does not have the extensive brand lineup of larger competitors like Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD) and Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP), it owns, licenses, or imports other popular brands like Stella Artois beer, Beringer wine, and SKYY vodka.

From a financial standpoint, the $9.6 billion company has greatly improved its balance sheet in the past few years. For one, it's done a much better job keeping its products from getting stale on the shelves -- since 2005, inventory has dropped by more than 20%, to $881 million in 2007. And in so doing, Foster's has become more efficient; the company reduced its cash conversion cycle from 241 days to 165 days over that same period.

Here are some other impressive statistics:


FY 2005

FY 2007

Return on equity






Dividends per share



Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. All data in millions of U.S. dollars, except per-share items.

Very few CAPS investors have yet to rate Foster's, but of those 15 who have, each believes it will outperform the S&P 500 going forward. The Fool's own TMFCommodore had this to say about Foster's great brands and potential resistance to market cycles:

Victoria Bitter (one of Foster's many product lines) is a marvelous brew. After 6 months studying abroad down under, it was by far my favorite beverage. The quality of this product makes me excited about the long term prospects of Foster's Group. Does anyone really see beer going out of style any time soon? Not this guy....

It's a keg! No, it's a can!
Netherlands-based Heineken Holding NV (HINKY.PK) is down in the dumps these days, having lost 27% of its value since early November. Its most recent dip came on the heels of a joint offer for Scottish & Newcastle (Kingfisher and Newcastle Brown Ale brands) with another European brewer, Carlsberg. Heineken investors may think the company offered too much for S&N, since two of its previous offers had been rejected.   

Consolidation in the brewing sector may continue, as the cost of ingredients like hops and malted barley have skyrocketed in the past few years. This puts more price pressure on craft brewers like Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM) than on giant conglomerates, which have greater economies of scale on their side. Of course, following its recent bitter battle for S&N, Heineken may be sitting out the next round of small-cap buyouts.

Over on CAPS, 21 of 23 players who have rated the stock think it will outperform the market down the road. The most common reasoning is beer's tendency to resist economic cycles and the popularity of Heineken's namesake beer ,as well as its Amstel lineup.

Your turn
What do you think about Foster's, Heineken -- or any other stock, for that matter? Make your voice heard on Motley Fool CAPS today. It's 100% free to participate.

Fool contributor Todd Wenning is ranked No. 619 out of more than 83,000 investors participating in CAPS. He does not own shares of any company mentioned. Petroleo Brasileiro is a Motley Fool Income Investor choice. Anheuser-Busch is an Inside Value selection. The Fool's disclosure policy always has a five-star rating.