If you've followed international stocks in the past few years, you've surely noticed a trend: Foreign companies are delisting their stocks from major U.S. exchanges.
Well-known foreign companies such as British Airways, Adecco, and Fiat either announced or implemented departures from the NYSE last year. And we can expect this flight from New York to continue.
Nothing personal -- it's just business
Why, you ask? Put simply, the extra costs of following Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and various exchange regulations, along with anemic trading volumes on U.S. exchanges, often outweigh the benefits for these companies.
But although other large companies have 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 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, each week we'll take a look at a top-rated foreign company trading on the Pink Sheets, and we'll see how our 96,000-plus investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free investing community, have rated it.
This week we'll take a look at a giant multi-utility company that extends its reach across five continents.
That's some high-quality H2O
Along the same lines as the aforementioned British Airways, Adecco, and Fiat, Paris-based Suez (OTC BB: SZEZY.PK) also pulled its shares from major U.S. exchanges last year, because:
- Trading volume on the NYSE was very low and the added costs associated with SOX didn't make the U.S. listing worthwhile.
- The merger of the NYSE and Euronext, which created the current NYSE Euronext
, would naturally facilitate trade between the U.S. and France. (NYSE: NYX)
Make no mistake, though -- the lack of volume for Suez's shares on the NYSE wasn't because it was a terrible investment. If anything, it can be chalked up to a lack of knowledge about Suez's business.
Admittedly, it's a difficult business to wrap your head around. In fact, as Motley Fool Global Gains lead advisor Bill Mann noted when he recommended Suez shares to subscribers, Suez itself took up 30 pages of its annual report to explain what it does. Suffice it to say the company's two main divisions are traditional energy utilities and environmental services like recycling and wastewater treatment.
Suez is currently trying to complete a dragged-out merger agreement with Gaz de France, which will (eventually) create the third largest utility in the world. Discussions have been mired in political red tape for more than two years now, but CEO Gerard Mestrallet noted recently that he is "determined to complete the merger" by June 30.
CAPS investors will tell you there's a lot to like about Suez even without GDF at its side. Of the 189 players who have rated the stock, 183 think it will outperform the S&P going forward. Most of the bullish arguments revolve around Suez's strength in the global water and wastewater management business, with the idea that water is the next oil. As the global population increases, there will be greater demand for clean drinking water, and because Suez already has water treatment operations in five continents (North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia), it's in a good position to capitalize on the trend.
THE WORLD NEEDS WATER. ... Many people do not think of water as a commodity like oil or gold, but water is a commodity and is the most needed commodity of all. [Suez] is a wonderful play on the ever growing demand for clean water plus its also a great way to play the EURO.
And like domestic utilities such as Exelon
Fool contributor Todd Wenning is ranked No. 463 out of more than 96,000 investors participating in CAPS. He does not own shares of any company mentioned. NYSE Euronext is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.