Editor's note: A previous version of this article relied on out-of-date source material on Amarin. The Fool regrets the error.
Ireland's economy appears stuck in an economic malaise similar to the Great Depression. From peak to trough, its GDP has declined by 20%. The most recent quarterly drop in economic output was its 14th in a row. Its unemployment rate is just short of 15%. And the country's public and private debt-to-GDP ratio stands at an astounding 663%.
Yet surprisingly, Irish equities have rallied since the beginning of the year. The benchmark index for the Irish Stock Exchange is up by more than 8% year to date. Have you missed the boat? Is it time to get in? Add the following five Irish stocks to your watchlist, our free stock-tracking service here at The Motley Fool, to find out.
1. Bank of Ireland
The Bank of Ireland provides banking and other financial services to small- and medium-sized commercial and industrial companies. Although the financial crisis was painful for the bank's shareholders -- the number of shares outstanding increased by nearly 300% -- it seems to be past the worst of it. The lender is the only Irish bank to have emerged from the turmoil free of government control, although the government holds a minority position of 15%.
Bank of Ireland sports a market cap of $4.3 billion and trades for 34% of book value. Just last year, America billionaire Wilbur Ross staked a large position in the lender, saying that he expected to "own it for years."
Amarin is a biopharmaceutical company engaged in developing drugs for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. While its lead candidate Miraxion formerly failed trials for Huntington's Disease, it has since been rebranded as AMR101 and resubmitted for the treatment of high triglyceride levels. Fool biotech expert Brian Orelli expects FDA approval for AMR101 this summer, at which point takeover speculation might finally become reality. Amarin sports a market cap of $1.4 billion. Its stock is up 33% for the year, and it currently trades at a forward earnings multiple of 29.2.
Elan is a biotech company focusing on neuroscience, primarily targeting Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis. Sales of its best-known product, multiple-sclerosis drug Tysabri, passed the $1 billion mark in 2009. It's now addressing Tysabri for Crohn's disease. It sold its extended-release drug-delivery technology to a competitor last year. Elan has a market cap of $8.5 billion, and annual revenues of $1.3 billion. For the year, its stock is up 4.3%, and is currently trading for 73.6 times forward earnings.
4. Seagate Technology
A technology company incorporated in Dublin, Seagate is one of the world's largest manufacturers of computer hard drives. During its latest earnings release, at the end of January, it predicted robust demand in the coming quarters. Back in the summer of 2010, Foolish senior technology analyst Eric Bleeker called Seagate the best technology play in the market. Its stock has since almost doubled, going from $14 a share in June 2010 to nearly $26 today. It has a $11.6 billion market cap, and trades for a measly 3.1 times future earnings.
Formerly Tyco Healthcare, Dublin-incorporated Covidien develops, manufacturers, and distributes medical and imaging devices, pharmaceuticals, and other health-care products. The company recently made news by announcing its agreement to take over superDimension, a private Israeli company that manufactures minimally intrusive devices for the lungs. Covidien sports a market cap of $25.6 billion, had revenue last year of $11.6 billion, and trades for 11.5 times forward earnings.
Foolish bottom line
Investing in European equities right now is not for the faint of heart. The continent is embroiled in economic malaise and it remains to be seen whether the monetary bloc can survive the storm. That being said, I can't help but admit that my favorite of the five is the Bank of Ireland. It trades for a pittance of book value, has caught the eye of at least one savvy American billionaire, and was recently recommended by our Motley Fool Special Ops newsletter.
- Click here to see my list of four Spanish stocks to get on your watchlist.
For those of you with a less voracious appetite for risk, however, check out the companies identified in The Motley Fool's free report "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World."
Fool contributor John Maxfield does not have a financial position in any of the companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of Ireland. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Covidien. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.