3 Companies To Make Trump's Trade War Feel Irrelevant

Adam Fischbaum's picture

Monday, July 9, 2018 - 2:30pm

by Adam Fischbaum

After a couple of decades, it would seem that the idea of free trade or cooperative trade would be an accepted global practice. And then Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.

To fulfill campaign promises and appease his base, Trump is promising "fair trade" and "better deals" for American industry and workers. This will involve upending the global status quo on everything from NAFTA to intellectual property.

The chilling effects of trade tensions were felt publicly when badass American icon Harley Davidson (NYSE: HOG) announced that it would be offshoring international manufacturing for foreign markets due to the threat. The concerns have also helped equity markets erase all gains for the year.

Full disclosure, I am a free trader. I firmly believe that, in the long run, free trade can and does benefit the global society by fostering peace and prosperity, which is always a better alternative to war and poverty. That being said, fate has currently dealt us a different hand, so we must adapt.

Many professional investors have once again turned their focus toward emerging markets (EM)... and their higher growth rates. However, pure play EM investing can be tricky.

Most large, multinational corporations -- especially those in manufacturing with multiple brand portfolios -- won't be affected by the Trump trade war unless they're U.S. manufacturing companies relying heavily on the imported raw materials affected by the higher tariffs. Here are three established, franchise name players that derive more than 33% of annual revenues from international sources and will benefit from increased focus on EM investing.

1. Coca Cola (NYSE: KO)
The "Real Thing" isn't put on a boat and shipped from the United States to a foreign market. Never has been. The company bottles at the source, which means that wherever Coke products are sold, they are manufactured locally or regionally.

Now, higher aluminum tariffs may affect the company's input costs domestically; however, with just 24% of annual revenue coming from North America, any trade war impact should be negligible. And with an expanding global consumer class, Coke is one the world's strongest EM brands. The stock currently trades around $45 with a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 21.4 and a 3.6% dividend yield.

2. Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR)
Having followed this stock closely, there's little doubt that it's a perfect fit for this list. An iconic American appliance company, Whirlpool's portfolio of brands crosses the globe. Its American products are assembled in the United States while the company's international products are assembled in or near their home markets. In some ways, higher tariffs on imported appliances will translate into higher prices. With 54% of the company's revenue coming from North America, that could actually make Whirlpool's domestic product line more competitive.

But the company's foreign brands are also poised to profit long term from the rising EM middle class. Nothing says consumerism like a major household appliance. At around $150, the stock yields 3% and trades at a bargain forward PE of 9.6.

3. Vodafone Group PLC (Nasdaq: VOD)
This is the biggest wireless telecom company you may have never heard of. Vodafone collects a third of it's annual sales from attractive EM's such as South Africa and India.

The company is also committing resources to developing its presence in frontier markets (such as sub-Saharan Africa) with wireless phone service as well as a deep dive in to mobile banking products. In fact, the company has no North American exposure since unloading its stake in Verizon (NYSE: VZ) a few years back.

Shares trade at a 14% discount to their tangible book value with an attractive 7.4% dividend yield.

Risks To Consider: If the trade war drags on, a company like Whirlpool could see a rise in input costs from steel, aluminum, and other tariffs on manufacturing components, thus putting the squeeze on margins. From an image standpoint, Coke has long been revered as an all-American brand and could face the threat of boycott due to rising nationalism.

Action To Take: When it comes to the Trump administration's actions on the trade front, I'm afraid the toothpaste is already out of the tube. Markets have been too free for too long, and the world is used to it. I doubt a protracted trade war is likely, and most of this is just political posturing.

Still, as investors, it's best to be prepared. These three names are well entrenched, franchise players paying a blended 4.7% dividend yield. That, combined with solid operating histories, should translate into steady, consistent returns in excess of 7% for the long term.

Adam Fischbaum does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.
StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.