I have a little quiz for you.
I'll describe a few features of one of the most intriguing places in the world to invest, and you tell me which nation I'm talking about. Ready?
- This country produces more copper than any other nation in the world. It produces about five times as much as the United States (who is the second-largest producer).
- While natural resources have helped this nation flourish, it is growing into a powerhouse for global business. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HP), Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), IBM (NYSE: IBM), Motorola (NYSE: MOT), and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) all have their regional headquarters in this nation's capital.
- Its economy has rebounded strongly from last year's recession. In fact, The Economist forecasts that the economy will grow at +4.7% this year and +6.0% next year.
- The main index of our "mystery" country gained nearly +7% in the second quarter of this year. Compare that to the sharp -11% drop for the S&P 500.
With impressive stats like these, I'd venture you think I'm talking about one of the popular "BRIC" nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China). Guess again...
The answer is Chile.
Chile doesn't get as much press as some of the larger growing nations, but it should be on your radar -- especially when it looks like the U.S. markets could be in for a rocky ride. And here's a little trick on finding income in developing nations like Chile: the first spot to look is the banks.
Banks are at the heart of any developing economy. Growing businesses need loans to expand operations to meet more demand. Meanwhile, a growing base of consumers crave loans to purchase homes, buy cars, or make other larger purchases. This speaks nothing of other aspects of banking such as credit cards or investment accounts.
This, of course, leads to rapid growth for banks in developing economies... and they're typically generous in paying their earnings to investors as dividends.
Santiago-based Corpbanca SA (NYSE: BCA) bank is a perfect example.
Chile's largest bank, Corpbanca offers commercial and retail banking through more than 100 offices. The bank also offers mutual fund management, insurance, and securities brokerages through a network of subsidiaries.
The performance of this stock has been outstanding. BCA returned investors +120% in 2009 and has posted a remarkable average annual three-year total return of +26% compared to -9% for the S&P 500. Just this year it has returned +40%.
Those heady returns are what you'll get when investors find strong growth in this type of investing climate. Net income at Corpbanca has more than doubled over the past three years, from $73 million in 2006 to $152 million in 2009. Meanwhile, dividends (paid each March) have rocketed from $1.09 per share in 2006 to $3.62 this year -- a +232% increase.
There are a few items to watch with this bank. First, it's paid out roughly 100% of net income over the past few years, so don't expect the phenomenal income growth to last forever. Second, you'll want to hold the shares in a taxable account. The Chilean government withholds 35% of payments to foreign investors, but you can get this amount back at tax time, if held in a taxable account.
I'll be watching BCA shares. I think it's a strong income and growth play. But before I consider buying, I'm waiting for the shares to pull back. Since the end of May alone they've gained more than $10 per share and now trade at a record-high.
It seems we're not the only ones wanting a piece of this great income story.