If you are an income investor, you may think overseas investing is best left to the pros. But you'd be wrong. A bit of research shows plenty of low-risk opportunities for U.S. investors seeking high yields in the global market.
Investing globally is a good idea because it provides a chance to participate in the faster-growing economies of emerging markets like Brazil, which International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts will grow 4.5% this year - much faster than the U.S. growth rate of 3%. Looking abroad also provides more choices and the ability to diversify risk across multiple economies and geographies.
In addition, investing overseas often earns better returns. For example, the S&P gained 23.5% last year, but returns for emerging markets in Brazil, India and China were 80% or higher. The developed markets of Australia and Canada returned more than 30%.
Foreign stocks also tend to have better yields because overseas companies typically distribute more of their cash flow back to investors. The yield on the S&P 500 currently averages less than 2%, but stocks in the developed markets of Europe and the Pacific Rim often yield more than 3%, with some exceeding 5%. Foreign companies also grow dividends faster. Dividend increases by companies in Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index averaged dividend increases of nearly 11% last year. Brazil's Bovespa Index posted 10% dividend growth.
Of course, finding good foreign stocks and investing in overseas markets can be challenging. Fortunately, there are a number of foreign companies that trade on U.S. stock exchanges just like U.S. companies. Here are four that pay big dividends...
1. France Telecom (FTE)
France Telecom is a leading provider of telecommunications services to businesses and consumers in France and Spain. This telecom giant has a $60 billion market value and generated income exceeding $3.95 billion last year. It also has a strong balance sheet, with cash exceeding $4.29 a share. France Telecom pays a $1.75 annual dividend and yields 7.7%. Dividend payout is comfortable at 78% and prospects for dividend increases are favorable. Analysts expect this company to grow earnings at 8.5% a year for the next five years.
2. Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes S.A. (GOL)
Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes S.A. is a discount air carrier operating in Latin America. The company offers 860 daily flights serving major cities in Brazil and the rest of South America. Gol Linhas Aereas is a mid-sized company with a market value of $3.8 billion and a liquid balance sheet. Cash per share is almost twice the current $1.59 dividend rate. This company is benefitting from the robust growth of the South American economy, which is enabling Gol Linhas Aereas to expand earnings at a double-digit rate. Analysts target earnings growth for the next five years at 14% a year. With a strong cash position and modest 39% dividend payout, Gol Linhas Aereas is well-positioned to grow the dividend.
3. Himax Technologies (HIMX)
Headquartered in Taiwan, Himax Technologies is a leading manufacturer of the semiconductors used in flat panel displays. This company is small compared to the other picks, with only a $450 million market capitalization and annual income of $32.6 million last year. There is nothing small about its cash position, however: Himax has much more cash than debt and cash per share is nearly twice the $0.24 annual dividend.
Payout from earnings is high at 250%, but cash flow provides ample coverage. Himax produced cash flow of $73.6 million last year and paid $55.5 million in dividends. The semiconductor industry is cyclical and Himax is still feeling the lingering effects of the recession. One of the effects was greatly reduced demand for flat panel displays. The global economic recovery appears to be picking up steam, however, and analysts predict Himax'a earnings will climb 38% next year and 15% a year for the next five years. This high earnings growth should enhance prospects for further dividend increases.
4. Partner Communications Co. Ltd. (PTNR)
Partner Communications Co. provides mobile telecommunications services in Israel. Analysts expect this Steady Eddie to produce 8% growth in earnings this year and growth averaging 7% a year for the next five years. Partner pays a $1.64 annual dividend and yields 8.5%.
The shares are also trading close to a five-year low price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, at 8.7 times last year's earnings. The company trades for only a 2.6 times next year's projected earnings. Partner is a mid-sized company based on its $2.9 billion market value and income of $340 million last year. Dividend payout is a bit rich at 98%, but Partner generates more than enough cash flow to cover the dividend. Cash flow of $463 million last year easily covered $260 million in dividend payments. Partner also has an impressive track record for dividend growth. In the past three years, the dividend has increased nearly 38%.
Action to take--> Conservative investors should like Gol Linhas Aereas. This Brazilian air carrier has a strong cash position, modest dividend payout and good growth prospects in the developing economies of South America. Aggressive investors may want to look more closely at Himax Technologies. Himax will benefit from a cyclical recovery in semiconductor demand, which could enhance prospects for earnings and dividend growth.