Right now, many quality European multinationals are cheaper than their U.S. peers, as investors' concerns about Europe's economy have lowered share prices.
The S&P 500 currently trades at 2.14 times book value and 12.4 times projected 2013 earnings, compared with 1.5 times book and 10.8 times estimated earnings for the Euro Stoxx 50 Index, an index for Eurozone blue chips.
The EuroStoxx 50 also yields more than 4.5% -- double the S&P 500's 2.25%.
Take Sanofi (NYSE: SNY), a French pharmaceutical company that's up nearly 90% in the few short years I've owned it. Or U.K-based National Grid (NYSE: NGG), an electric distribution utility that has been paying a steady dividend since I added it in 2008 and is up 27% in two years.
And now, I've pinpointed another European company worth considering for your portfolio that pays a solid 5% dividend yield. Not to mention, it sells one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
I am talking about Daimler (OTC: DDAIF), maker of Mercedes Benz.
Daimler's wide geographic exposure is its biggest competitive advantage when it comes to minimizing risk. The firm can rely on sales gains in the United States and emerging markets to help offset downside shocks such as those caused by the recession in the European Union (EU).
In 2012, Daimler was hit by a perfect storm. Problems in Europe, combined with poor profitability of the Mercedes brand in China during the past couple of years, led to a sell-off in shares.
The good news?
This has made the stock cheap compared with many other companies this size.
But that's only part of the story. Here's the really exciting part...
China (now the world's largest car market) and other emerging markets continue to show solid growth. Chinese car sales were up roughly 10% in the third quarter compared with one year ago.
And while Daimler reported only moderate growth during the summer months, Chinese economic indicators have improved markedly since mid-summer. Recent Chinese manufacturing surveys also suggest auto demand should accelerate again into 2013.
The macroeconomic outlook for other emerging markets, including India and Russia, also continues to look solid.
Daimler is also expected to refresh 70% of its product portfolio between 2011 and 2015. In 2013, two of its most anticipated product launches include a new S-Class and a facelift for the E-Class slated for the second quarter. The S-Class, in particular, is a top-selling premium-priced model. China has been the world's largest market for the car, so the new model should aid growth in the market.
So while it's tough to see much growth potential in Western Europe in 2013, and U.S. automobile sales remain far lower than their pre-crisis peaks, I'm not too concerned. Sales will pick up in both regions, just as they will continue to grow in China and the rest of the emerging world.
Simply put, Mercedes is an aspirational brand. It's a status symbol -- a sign that you've "made it."
And right now, China is churning out tens of thousands of newly rich consumers every year. (In fact, it was recently reported that China now has more than 1 million millionaires.)
You can bet that, at some point, all of these newly wealthy consumers will think about buying a Mercedes.
[Note: You may have noticed that Daimler trades over-the-counter (OTC). That shouldn't worry you in the least. As I said, this is one of the most recognized brands in the world. But you should consult your broker if you have questions about trading OTC shares of international companies.]
Daimler pays dividends annually in April. The payment was $2.92 per share in 2012 (after the currency conversion), up from $2.45 the year before. (Germany withholds 26.4% of dividends paid to U.S. residents, though investors can reclaim this tax as a credit against their U.S. tax liability using IRS Form 1116. Also, no withholding tax is collected on shares held in an IRA.)
Action to Take --> Based on 2012's payout, the stock yields about 5%, and there's potential for modest upside to the payout in 2013. But make no mistake... it's the emerging-market growth element that has me excited about picking up shares of Daimler while they're cheap. I think Daimler is a buy below $60 a share.