The Summer Olympics are not only a time when you might hear the word shuttlecock on national TV -- they are also a time for the host country to show off.
China did not waste the opportunity. With a price tag of more than $40 billion, this was the most expensive Olympics in history.
With that kind of money being thrown around, investors had been salivating. From online travel agents such as Ctrip.com
China has experienced nearly three decades of unprecedented economic growth, which has pulled more people out of poverty than any other country ... ever.
This rapid growth has left the country's infrastructure dramatically lacking, and that's why the government plans to spend 10 times what it spent on the Olympics -- more than $400 billion -- to improve transportation, transmission, and safety throughout the country. And that's just through 2010!
This is a huge opportunity for international powerhouses such as General Electric
Kickin' rocks to find gold
To find the companies that will provide market-crushing returns, investors need to look beyond the staggering numbers being spent on airports and power plants and find the companies that are addressing the real Chinese growth story -- the growth of the Chinese middle class. I'm talking about the small, local, or regional companies no one has ever heard of. Think of how CVS
Trouble is, China's relatively new adoption of free markets, and the sheer speed at which the economy is growing, often means weak regulation and poor oversight.
In recent years, many companies were brought to the market through less-than-transparent reverse mergers, so it can be difficult to determine who actually owns what. In addition, the idea of working for the benefit of shareholder is relatively new in China. Clearly, there's heavy risk for investors -- so be extra cautious in your due diligence.
Filtering for quality
How are we supposed to determine the fly-by-night operations from the legitimate companies poised to take advantage of China's immense growth opportunities? The first thing to do is find quality management.
How do you determine the quality of management? What you're after is transparency -- a management team that's honest and upfront. An annual report full of glossy pictures of a shiny new office complex or assembly line may look great, but one bursting with information on management compensation and governance policies is far more impressive.
A quality management team is one that has adopted robust standards of governance and operation. These include things like the separation of the chairman and CEO positions, a majority of independent directors, and reasonable compensation packages with bonuses tied to meaningful performance metrics.
Another favorite Foolish filter (say that 10 times fast) is management ownership in the company. It is a nice way to ensure management has its interests aligned with ours. Of course, you'll also want to be alert for compensation packages that include the excessive granting of cheap options, which are dilutive to shareholders.
The Foolish bottom line
With the Beijing games now closed, China is officially off the world stage. But given the burgeoning Chinese middle class, and combined with a stock market down nearly 50% since last year, Chinese stocks should not be off your radar. They will require extra due diligence, but in my view, they're worth the extra trouble.
Earlier this summer, our team at Motley Fool Global Gains went to China to conduct our own due diligence. We met with CEOs and management teams in China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia. To read up on our notes from that trip, or to see our five favorite international stocks for new money, click here to try Global Gains free for the next 30 days.
Nate Weisshaar does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned, but he would like you to know his hotcakes are selling well. Ctrip.com is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. Best Buy is an Inside Value and Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is the other half of the battle.