The European sovereign debt crisis is over. Italy and Spain have been stabilized, and all major players — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi — know what needs to be done. We can all breathe a sigh of relief.
And if you believe that, to borrow a line from country singer George Strait, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona I’d like to sell you.
The crisis is not over. It will be months or even years before this long saga finally plays out.
The good news is that the ECB’s offer of virtually unlimited credit to banks means the risk of a 2008 Lehman Brothers-like meltdown has receded. But the bad news is that it often takes years to recover from the hangover of a debt crisis.
For Latin America — a promising emerging region — the 1980s were a “lost decade” as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and others struggled to pay back the gargantuan debts they accumulated in the 1970s. Have you ever noticed that Rio de Janeiro’s skyline looks like it was frozen in the 1970s? There’s a reason. Most of Brazil’s infrastructure was built during the credit bubble of that decade, and after the bust, the country was locked out of the international credit markets for most of the 1980s and 1990s.
And Japan? It seems like an eternity ago, but Japan once was the envy of the Western world. However, in the wake of its credit bubble and bust, Japan is entering its third lost decade with no end in sight.
Suffice it to say, Europe has a hard road in front of it. But for investors, the crisis has created some phenomenal opportunities. You see, because of the relatively small size of the domestic markets (and in some cases the historical ties of colonialism), European companies always have had a global emphasis. Think about Heineken (PINK:HINKY), whose beer many readers no doubt have in their refrigerators. If Heineken depended solely on its native Dutch population of 16 million people, it certainly couldn’t produce $16 billion in annual revenues.
Many of Europe’s finest companies are “European” only in the sense that their headquarters are located in Europe. Today, I’m going to share with you my five favorite European stocks. Because of the sense of fear pervading the European markets, all trade at valuations we might never see again in our lifetimes.
German engineering juggernaut Siemens AG (NYSE:SI) is one of the world’s premier producers of industrial and power generation machinery and equipment. The company makes everything from high-speed trains to medical equipment to wind turbines — with German precision.
Siemens did 74 billion euro in revenues in fiscal 2011 and has a healthy order backlog of 96 billion euros. And most importantly, a majority of Siemens revenues comes from outside crisis-plagued Europe, nearly a third comes from emerging markets, and roughly 12% comes from China and India alone.