Slowing growth and commodity crashes have made it a tough run for former emerging-market darlings Brazil, India, Russia, and China, but that doesn't mean there aren't companies in these emerging markets that may be worth investing in. For example, investors may want to take a closer look at these emerging-market stock picks, hand-selected by three of our top Motley Fool contributors.
Investing in emerging-market stocks isn't for the faint of heart. Investors not only need to pick great stocks but also have to figure out the political risks that come with operating in countries that may be very different from the United States.
Investors willing to do their homework and take on that challenge, however, may find they're handsomely rewarded, because emerging markets have some of the world's best economic growth rates. For example, according to research from Dun & Bradstreet, India's economy could expand by 7.5% annually between now and 2020.
If that forecast proves correct, investors may want to consider investing in India's Dr. Reddy's Labs (NYSE:RDY), one of the planet's biggest generic-drug makers. Dr. Reddy's Labs should benefit from rising healthcare utilization tied to India's economic growth, but it also benefits from other markets. For example, it gets 40% of its revenue in North America, where the population is rapidly aging. In the most recent quarter, Dr. Reddy's Labs saw sales grow 7% year over year to $579 million (adjusted for currency translation), while its gross profit grew 8% to $339 million, leading to reported EPS of $0.54. In my opinion, Dr. Reddy's global footprint and solid performance make it one emerging-market stock that shouldn't be ignored.
One emerging-market stock I've had my eye on for a long time is Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), China's Internet search-engine leader. For a long time, Baidu's potential looked limitless, as the company had a stranglehold on the Chinese search market and had successfully kept U.S. archrival Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) at bay. Yet the rise of Chinese competitor Qihoo 360 (UNKNOWN:QIHU.DL) and its unexpected rise to relevance sent Baidu shares into a tailspin in early 2013, as investors perceived a threat to Baidu's long-held dominance in the space.
Over the past two years, though, Baidu has reasserted its leadership of the Chinese Internet industry, with share prices nearly tripling due to the company's efforts to build up mobile search traffic. Rather than simply fading into irrelevance as a desktop-only provider, Baidu used its expertise not only to gain users but to monetize them as well: Revenue from mobile has climbed fourfold in just the past year. With its search engine helping to maximize the value of targeted ads, Baidu has stayed ahead of the curve and successfully made the transition to the highly promising mobile market. With more than half a million corporate customers using Baidu for ad services, finding ways to squeeze more from its existing clientele is a huge area of potential growth for Baidu going forward.
One emerging-market stock I've been interested in is Russia's Yandex (NASDAQ:YNDX). Like Baidu, Yandex is the dominant search engine in its home market, with 60% market share. However, Yandex's market share looks likely to increase even further, and its valuation is more appealing.
After sanctions were first announced against Russia and Visa and MasterCard had to stop some transactions within the country, Russia instituted localization laws requiring companies to move their data centers into the country so that couldn't happen again. While this first targeted only payment companies, this move has been expanded to affect all technology companies providing services in the country, including search. Yandex's main competitor in Russia is Google, and it remains to be seen whether Google will comply with the localization laws. If not, Google could be blocked in Russia once the laws are implemented on Sept. 1, thus giving Yandex a veritable monopoly in the country.
Yandex has been crushed along with the rest of the Russian stock market by the fall in oil prices. Because of the 54% fall the stock has taken in the past year, Yandex can now be bought for just 14 times earnings, whereas Baidu trades at 38 times earnings.
Investors should note that significant risk remains given that it is Russia, but if you weight this stock in your portfolio according to the risk, you could make out very well over the next few years.