The Easiest Way to Get Overseas Yields of up to 11%

The S&P 500 recently notched its highest close in more than three and a half years. Hitting new peaks in the bull market that began in March 2009, the U.S. benchmark has gained 9.0% so far this year.

#-ad_banner-#That’s impressive… but not compared with what’s happening overseas.

Investor appetite for global companies in fast-growing overseas markets such as Brazil and China are pushing shares to new 52-week highs. In fact, Morgan Stanley’s benchmark MSCI All Country World Index, which excludes the United States, has surpassed the S&P 500, with year-to-date returns of 10.7%.

But how can stateside investors take advantage of these foreign plays?

It’s easy with American depository receipts (ADRs). These unique securities allow non-U.S. companies that trade on their home country exchange to trade at the same time on a U.S. exchange in U.S. dollars. ADRs aren’t actually shares, but they represent shares, just as a dollar bill used to represent 1.5 grams of gold. More than 2,400 ADRs trade and pay dividends in U.S. dollars on U.S. exchanges.

More than 85% of ADRs trade over-the-counter in the United States. But for today’s purposes, I’m only going to cover roughly 365 ADRs that allow you to tap into global giants that trade on the NYSE or Nasdaq.

These stocks are starting to attract investor attention. In fact, the BNY Mellon ADR Index of depository receipts that trade on the NYSE or Nasdaq is slightly ahead of the S&P 500.

Despite bulling ahead, these securities still offer income investors an average yield of 4%, almost double the S&P 500’s 2%. And while the S&P 500 is starting to look pricey with a trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 14, bargain hunters will find lots of value in high level American depository receipts, which still enjoy an average P/E of just 12.6.

The best high-yield ADRs on the market
I decided to use StreetAuthority’s screening tools to find the most compelling high-yield foreign companies that trade actively on a major U.S. exchange. The results give me 365 companies. I then eliminated any ADRs which offered a yield of less than 5%, based on their payouts over the past 12 months.

That left 56 ADRs. I then screened for dividend growth track record over the long-term and near-term. Less than half, or 21 of the ADRs, grew dividends by an average of at least 5% annually over the past three years and the past year.

In addition to growing payouts, I wanted to ensure the share price helped generate positive total returns for investors. I, therefore, screened these 21 ADRs for a positive 200-day moving average. My goal was to select ADRs with a stable or positive long-term price trend. Only 13, a little more than half, passed muster.

I raked these 13 prospects over the coals one more time. U.S. investors have grown used to a diet of regular and frequent dividend payments. But foreign stocks generally don’t pay dividends as frequently as their U.S. brethren. Some, such as Brazilian utility Eletrobras (NYSE: EBR), make irregular payments depending on retained earnings. Many, such as Taiwan’s United Microelectronics (NYSE: UMC) or Brazilian steelmaker Siderurgica (NYSE: SID), pay just once a year.

So I did a final screen for dividend frequency and kept only companies that dole out payments at least twice a year. That left nine worthy candidates.


Risks to Consider: Even though ADRs trade and pay dividends in U.S. dollars, they are still exposed to currency volatility. That’s because trading prices and dividends are pegged to local currency. If local currency strengthens against the U.S. dollar, then the ADR price and dividend will be worth more to U.S. investors, but the reverse is also true.

Also, some of these ADR dividends are subject to withholding taxes of around 15%, which are deducted before the dividend enters your account (you can often get this refunded by the U.S. government). That said, Brazil and the U.K. don’t withhold taxes for U.S. residents, so no foreign taxes are withheld on dividends from Cemig, GlaxoSmithKline, or Vodafone.

Finally, this screen focuses on only a few key variables. It hasn’t touched on earnings, cash flow, debt and other fundamentals that can drive share price performance. So, please see the list as a starting point for further research.

Action to Take –> Cemig’s common (NYSE: CIG-C) and preferred (NYSE: CIG) ADRs stand out from this list for their combination of high yield and strong dividend growth. The fact that Brazil charges no withholding tax, allowing investors to keep the full amount of declared dividends, is an added bonus.

I recently profile this company in greater detail in my High-Yield Investing newsletter because it’s my personal favorite on this list, but any of these companies are suitable candidates for further research.