These Foreign Stocks Have Become Too Cheap to Ignore

The market is taking it on the chin this week, which was to be expected, according to technical analysts. Just last week, I noted that history tells us the Dow Jones Industrial Average would need to move back to recent lows (known as a “retest”).

Sure enough, we’re again within striking distance of the intra-day low of 10,588 on Aug. 9. For the Dow, keep an eye on that level. As we long don’t push through it, this still can be considered a time for bargain-hunting. (Buying stocks at a time like this can be emotionally wrenching, but if you wait for the market to look healthy, you’ll miss out on a key opportunity, just as was the case in early 2009. Nobody wanted to touch stocks then — except for those with fortitude).

Bargains now exist in every corner of the market, but I’ve been largely focusing on “blue chip” companies with hefty cash flow and exposure to all corners of the global economy. And thanks to the maelstrom in European markets, there’s no need to focus solely on U.S.-based companies. Foreign stocks are also coming under the same pressure, and many high-quality companies sport rock-bottom stock prices right now. Here are three ADRs with solid track records whose shares can be had on the cheap.

1. Anglo American PLC (Pink Sheets: AAUKY)
Even with the global economy in a funk, demand — and pricing — for many commodities remains quite strong. U.K.-based Anglo American, which is a leading miner of platinum, copper, diamonds, iron ore and coal, can surely attest to this. Investors had been expecting the firm to report about $3 billion in profits. They were off by about $1 billion, as Anglo American delivered $4 billion in net profits. (Many foreign firms report results bi-annually rather than quarterly).

Results should get even stronger in coming years — assuming commodity prices don’t fall back sharply. This is because Anglo is ramping up output at four major new mines that have been under development for the past two years.

But this isn’t purely about commodity demand. Prices are quite strong because of “the inability of supply to keep up with demand growth,” according to the company. Lastly, Anglo American has taken more than $1 billion out of its cost structure. All of these factors are helping to sharply boost profits. After earning roughly $2 a share in 2010, analysts think earnings per share (EPS) will exceed $5.50 this year and approach $7 in 2012. Yet in the past month, shares have fallen from $25 to below $19. At less than three times projected 2012 profits, this stock is a bargain that’s not likely to last long.

The phrase “European bank” can make an investor shudder these days. A number of large ones have been swept up in the crisis embroiling Greece, Ireland and Italy, and analysts expect them to take big write-offs as part of any solution to the crisis. Shares of Netherlands-based ING have been swept up in the chaos, recently taking a $440 million write-down against Greek government loans that have soured. Even with that write-down, ING managed to earn more than $2 billion in its second quarter — more than 10% ahead of forecasts.

Though known here for banking, ING is also a leading European insurer. The insurance business is low-growth, but stable and profitable. Most insurers and banks are valued in relation to their book value. In ING’s case, the figure stands at $17 a share — more than double the current stock price. Even better, a catalyst is in place: ING is getting set to spin off the insurance business. Analysts peg the value of the insurance business at close to $8 a share, which means investors would get the banking business for virtually nothing. More specifically, the insurance arm carries a book value of $27 billion, just below the whole company’s $30 billion market value. In addition, shares are quite cheap in terms of profits, trading at four times projected 2011 EPS.

3. Arcelor Mittal (NYSE: MT)
This Luxembourg-based steel maker dominates its industry, with $78 billion in sales in 2010. Unlike rivals like U.S. Steel (NYSE: X), Arcelor Mittal isn’t heavily exposed to spikes in raw material prices for items like iron ore or heat-producing coal. Instead, the company produces much of what it needs. It would be easy to conclude that demand for steel would slump sharply as the global economy cools, but ongoing residential construction in China remains robust. Also, demand for steel from automakers is already at historically low levels and is unlikely to drop sharply from here.

Yet this stock has also been exposed to the global market rout, falling more than 40% in the past five weeks, and roughly 80% since 2008. The stock’s market value has fallen to $32 billion, well below the steel maker’s $48 billion in tangible book value.

Arcelor Mittal is tracked by 38 analysts, according to Reuters, and the media target price is $39.50 — roughly double the current price. This is where Merrill Lynch sees shares heading, equating to seven times 2012’s projected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), on an enterprise value basis.

Risks to consider:  All of these companies are deeply imbedded in the global economy, so a widespread downturn across several regions would keep these shares under pressure for an extended period. But despite the current crises, the International Monetary Fund still projects 4% global economic growth in 2012. Therefore, current concerns about a looming global recession may be overblown.

Action to Take –> As we’ve seen, cheap stocks can get even cheaper in a market like this. But these three ADRs have taken such a beating that it should be hard for investors to resist them at these fire-sale levels. Other cheap ADRs include Roche Holdings (Pink Sheets: RHHBY), Volkswagen (Pink Sheets: VLKAY), Vale (NYSE: VALE) and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN).

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