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, Adecco, and Fiat either announced or implemented their departures 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 Canon
The good news is that you can still gain 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 help you separate the wheat from the chaff, therefore, each week we'll take a look at two top-rated foreign companies trading on the Pink Sheets, and we'll see how our 84,000-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.
Wenning vs. Wenning
When most Americans think about Bayer (BAYRY.PK), we think about over-the-counter aspirin. But to pigeonhole the German conglomerate as simply a manufacturer of headache relievers is a big mistake. For one, Bayer only generates about half of its revenue from its pharmaceuticals and consumer health divisions -- the rest mostly comes from the "CropScience" and "MaterialScience" groups. The CropScience segment "aims to contribute to the production of high-quality food, feed and natural fiber products," while MaterialScience produces, among other things, polyurethanes, coatings, and polycarbonates.
The $60 billion German giant is also geographically diversified, with about 26% of its revenue coming from regions outside Europe and North America. Sales growth has also been strong in these regions over the past year, posting 25% gains since last September.
Unfortunately, Bayer could have a major legal issue on its hands, stemming from its production and marketing of Trasylol, a widely used drug that was previously used to reduce transfusions and bleeding during open-heart surgery. There has been mounting evidence of potential problems in recent weeks – specifically, two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine that argued that the drug may have played a role in complications following open-heart surgery, with some instances even resulting in death.
Controversy surrounding Trasylol is nothing new, however. Back in 2006, Bayer fell under suspicion for allegedly "forgetting to submit" information to the FDA to gauge the drug's safety and efficacy. Bayer publicly apologized for the "omission," but the PR damage had already been done. Bayer stopped marketing Trasylol in the U.S. last November following a Canadian study that showed problems with the drug.
Despite the looming Trasylol issue, fully 187 of the 191 CAPS investors who have rated Bayer believe it will outperform the S&P 500. Many point to Bayer's strong consumer brands -- which include Aleve, Alka-Seltzer, and One-a-Day vitamins -- and its acquisitions of Possis
Even though I share an uncommon last name with Bayer CEO Werner Wenning, we're not related, so I have no qualms about advising caution when considering Bayer shares. The Trasylol mess smacks of Merck's
Tune in or tune out?
South African multimedia firm Naspers (NPSNY.PK) -- which sort of resembles a mix between Comcast
So why do CAPS investors love Naspers? Among other reasons, they like the company's stranglehold on the African broadcasting and cable TV market, as well as its exposure across global emerging markets. In addition to its South African base, the company also has operations in Eastern Europe, Thailand, China, and Brazil. There's a small segment in the U.S., but if you're looking for an international stock with very few ties to the U.S. market, Naspers is a good place to start -- 99% of its sales come from outside our shores.
CAPS players haven't been scared off by Naspers' recent decline. Fully 57 of the 58 players who have rated Naspers think it will continue to outperform the market down the road. One of the Keppel bulls is the Fool's own TMFBreakerRick, who had this to say last March: "I really like what I see here. Old school play with some new school octane (Tencent, MxIt, etc.)."
In Tencent, Rick is referring to Naspers' 35% interest in China's largest instant messaging community; MXit is a South African instant messaging service in which Naspers holds a 30% stake. These acquisitions are potential growth catalysts as instant messaging becomes more prevalent in emerging economies.