Brazil, Russia, India, China. The names, along with the BRIC acronym, are synonymous for investors with the huge amount of opportunity available in the emerging markets.

But despite the fact that we tend to give lip service to the entire group, news coverage tends to focus more on China, China, China, and a little more about China. It's like a radio station that claims to play top 40 hits, and then does nothing but cycles through Katy Perry's catalog (cringe).

Perhaps this laser-like focus on China has created opportunities elsewhere, though. Last week, Bloomberg reported that strong earnings growth has made cheap Russian equities even cheaper. The article noted that Russia's Micex index is now trading at 6.8 times next-12-months profit forecasts and is the cheapest of the 59 world indexes tracked by Bloomberg and compares favorably to the global average multiple of 12.

Pretty interesting
Bloomberg went on to quote Jim O'Neill, who said, "I find, opportunistically, Russia pretty interesting." But who is this O'Neill character? You might know him as the chairman of Goldman Sachs' asset management group, or you might know him as the guy who coined the BRIC acronym back in 2001.

When you consider that here in the U.S., we're trying to figure out just how attractive S&P 500 stocks are at 14 times next-12-months earnings, it sure sounds like Russia could be "pretty interesting" (to say the least).

To be sure, it's not all lollipops and syrniki for investors in Russia. The country is about as transparent as a brick wall, the government hasn't always been particularly predictable, and there's no long history of shareholder friendliness to hang your hat on. To top that off, there are all of four Russian companies listed on U.S. exchanges.

Three to watch
I'm a sucker for cheap stocks, though, so I decided I had to take a closer look and add some Russian picks to my watchlist. I happen to use E*TRADE, and so I made sure that all three of the stocks below can be purchased through its brokerage. However, I can't speak for other brokers.

1. LUKOIL Oil Company (Other OTC: LUKOY.PK)
Oil companies around the world have been sporting low multiples, but with a trailing price-to-earnings ratio of 5.9, Russia's Lukoil makes many of them look downright pricey.


Trailing P/E

Price / Tangible Book Value

Trailing Total Enterprise Value / EBITDA

Lukoil 5.9 0.8 3.5
ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) 12.5 2.4 6.0
CNOOC 15.7 3.5 8.3
Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) 7.3 1.1 6.6
ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) 8.4 1.4 4.1

Source: Capital IQ, a Standard & Poor's company.

Granted, I wouldn't expect Lukoil to trade at the same multiples as Exxon -- the latter is a global powerhouse and a paragon of energy company success. But Lukoil is also just a $46 billion company versus Exxon's $347 billion, or even Conoco's $90 billion, so Lukoil may have plenty more room to grow.

And when we compare Lukoil to the world's other major oil companies in terms of operating metrics, its 14% return on equity, 10% return on capital, and 8.1% net profit margin stack up quite well. The company also boasts a strong balance sheet with a debt-to-equity ratio of just 17%. And let's not forget that the company pays a dividend of roughly 3%.

All in all, Lukoil looks like a solid, cheap Russian oil play.

2. Mobile TeleSystems (NYSE: MBT)
A relatively easy way to swoop in on a country's growth is to target the major telecom providers. In just about all of the major emerging markets, economic growth has gone hand-in-hand with growing demand for communications services. On the bright side, that means that for telecoms in the emerging markets, we can pretty much count on healthy growth. However, these players are also generally huge -- at the end of 2009, Mobile TeleSystems had 102 million mobile subscribers out of a population of 230 million in Russia and the surrounding countries -- so truly scorching growth may not be in the cards.

As investors look for higher-growth opportunities in the emerging markets, it seems they've kicked the telecoms to the curb, leaving them trading at some pretty attractive multiples. And while many of the emerging-market telecom providers trade at enticing prices, Mobile TeleSystems still looks cheap by comparison.


Forward P/E

Trailing Total Enterprise Value / Revenue

Trailing Total Enterprise Value / EBITDA

Mobile TeleSystems 10.0 2.4 5.4
Vivo Participacoes 11.3 1.8 5.7
Turkcell (NYSE: TKC) 12.5 2.5 7.5
China Mobile (NYSE: CHL) 11 2.3 4.5
America Movil (NYSE: AMX) 13.8 3.8 9.9

Source: Capital IQ, a Standard & Poor's company.

Like Lukoil, Mobile TeleSystems' stats are impressive, from its 40% return on equity to the 18% last-12-months revenue growth and 27% operating profit margin. If there's a hitch in the company's numbers, it's that its debt-to-equity ratio of 240% is much higher than I usually like. Balancing that out, though, is a comfortable EBITDA-to-interest coverage ratio of 5.9.

Top that all off with a nice dividend, and you've got a stock well worth sticking on your watchlist (in fact, you can add it to your Foolish watchlist).

3. Norilsk Nickel (Other OTC: NILSY.PK)
OK, I'll be honest: This wasn't my first choice for the final Russia pick. I actually had my eye on Russia's pharma leader, Pharmstandard, but as far as I can tell, I'm unable to trade shares of that attractive, growing company.

But fret not, because I think Norilsk Nickel is a very worthwhile stand-in. The company is the largest mining company in Russia and a world leader in nickel and palladium, as well as a major player in both platinum and copper. That puts Norilsk right on the same track as the other major world miners in benefitting from the growth and infrastructure buildout in the emerging markets (yes, yes, primarily China).

The financial ratios for the company are all investment-worthy -- it had a 36% return on equity as of June, revenue has grown 14% per year over the past five years, and its debt-to-equity ratio is just 23%. Combine that with a trailing P/E of 7.4 and a 3.6% dividend, and I think we just may have a winner.

Do you have a great Russian stock up your sleeve that you think I've overlooked? Head down to the comments section and sound off.

Investors that prefer to not get down and dirty with individual stocks can set their sights on ETFs. My fellow Fools have put together this free report highlighting three ETFs (one focused on emerging markets) that could be set to soar.

America Movil and CNOOC are Motley Fool Global Gains recommendations. Petroleo Brasileiro and Turkcell are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. The Fool owns shares of China Mobile and ExxonMobil. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of CNOOC, but does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or on his RSS feed. The Fool's disclosure policy assures you no Wookiees were harmed in the making of this article.