4 Blue-Chip Stocks with big Growth Prospects in Latin America

Did you know it’s possible to capture emerging-market growth opportunities while downplaying risks such as inflation and currency swings? A great way to accomplish this is to own blue-chip companies that have a solid presence and significant sales in emerging markets.

Last week, I recommended Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), Heinz (NYSE: HNZ) and PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) as relatively safe investment plays on China’s growth. But while China’s growth opportunities capture most of the headlines, I believe Latin American countries are just as likely to deliver exceptional returns. Latin American gross domestic product (GDP) growth is pegged at 4.2% so far this year, which is more than twice the forecasts for U.S. growth. Countries such as Brazil, Chile and Argentina are benefiting from rising domestic consumption and low inflation. In addition, much of Latin America is rich in commodities and reaping the benefits of insatiable worldwide demand for crude oil, metals and agricultural crops.

So if you’re a dividend investor like me who’s also interested in tapping Latin America’s growth, then you should consider owning these high-yield, blue-chip stocks…

1. AmBev (NYSE: ABV)
Forward yield: 5%

Headquartered in Brazil, AmBev is a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD), the world’s largest brewer. AmBev is the largest beverage company in Latin America and the leader in two of the world’s top five beverage markets — Brazil and Canada. It owns the three top beer brands in Brazil and one of Canada’s best-selling beers, Labatt Blue. It is also Pepsi’s largest distributor in South America.

The company’s financials look quite solid: AmBev has more than doubled sales to $14.4 billion in the past five years. Helped by end-product price increases and lower fixed costs, AmBev has also delivered double-digit profit growth for nine straight quarters.

The company’s second quarter earnings per share (EPS) this year were up 21% to $0.38 from a year ago. In 2010 alone, AmBev generated operating cash flow of about $6 billion and paid out a little more than $3 billion in dividends. At a forward annual dividend rate of $1.47, AmBev shares yield a rich 4.4%.

2. Avon Products (NYSE: AVP)
Yield: 4%

Avon is the world’s largest direct seller of beauty products, with nearly $11 billion in annual sales. The company is present in more than 100 countries and manages a direct sales network of 6.5 million independent representatives.

The cosmetic seller intends to strengthen its presence in Latin America, which is its largest market and generates twice as much in sales as the U.S. market. Latin American sales rose 16% to $1.13 billion in the second quarter, which helped the company’s total revenue increase 7% to $2.6 billion.

EPS has grown nearly 11% a year in the past five years and currently stands at $0.48. Avon has also raised dividends 20 years in a row, including a 5% increase this past February, which hiked the annual rate to $0.92. Avon’s dividend payout is conservative at 55% and the yield is an attractive 4.2%. 

Because of the company’s consistent improvement of profit margins and Latin American sales gains, analysts expect this high growth rate to continue. 

3. DuPont Co. (NYSE: DD)
Yield: 3.5%

DuPont is a diversified chemical and science products giant. With operations in 90 countries, the company generates nearly $32 billion in annual sales. In the second quarter, DuPont’s net sales rose 19% to $10.3 billion, while EPS improved 17% to $1.37 from a year earlier.

Sales from Latin America were $900 million, representing about 10% of the company’s total sales. This was a 28% growth in sales in Latin America, which was the best growth rate among all other regions. My colleague Ryan Fuhrmann recently mentioned that he thinks DuPont could have as much as 80% upside in the long-term. And it’s not hard to see why — analysts think DuPont could deliver more than 10% annual growth for the next five years as a result of rising demand for specialty chemicals and coatings in Latin America and China. These materials are frequently used in industrial applications and infrastructure development.

DuPont shares yield 3.5%. Its dividend payout ratio is a modest 44%. The company has been paying dividends consistently since 1904 and appears overdue for a dividend increase. The last dividend increase was in October 2007, when DuPont raised it 11% to the current $1.64 annual rate.

4. Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT)
Yield: 3%

Kraft is a leading maker of snacks, candy, juices and other food products worldwide. The company owns well-known brands such as Oscar Mayer, Maxwell House, Trident, Dentyne, Halls, Nabisco and Oreo. Kraft produced sales of $49.2 billion in 2010 and generated $10.3 billion, or more than 20% of sales, from developing markets, including Latin America.

Kraft increased revenue 13.3% in this year’s second quarter to $13.9 billion, which was led by a 26% growth in Europe and 22% gains in emerging markets. In fact, Kraft sees such fantastic growth prospects coming from Latin America and other developing regions that the company is splitting itself into two separate publicly-traded companies in a tax-free spin-off. Kraft will separate its fast-growing global snack foods business from its slower growing, but higher-margin, U.S. foods division. The split is likely to happen in 2012.

Kraft has increased dividends in nine of the past 10 years and raised payments 6% annually in the past five years. Dividend payout is a bit high at 67%, but still leaves a safety cushion for covering payments during downturns. The stock’s yield is solid at 3.4%. EPS in the second quarter increased to $0.55, an improvement of almost 2% from the year-ago period.

Action to take –> All of these stocks are worthy for consideration in your portfolio. My top choice for aggressive portfolios is AmBev. With the majority of its sales in Latin America, the company is a bit riskier than the others, but also offers the richest yield and best growth prospects. My top pick for conservative investors is Kraft because of its industry-leading brands and consistent dividend growth.

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