Emerging markets like the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — haven’t exactly been an investing friend in recent years. Before the Great Recession, EMs were one of the best places to find a hefty dose of capital gains. As these nations grew and expanded, so did their stocks. Broad-based funds like the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSE:EEM) were the place to find great long-term gains.
Then the bottom dropped out.
Emerging markets stocks spent the last few years just scraping by. Some analysts question whether you need them anymore for growth — especially some of the more developed BRICS countries.
But a funny thing happened. Emerging markets have come back and have posted their best start to a year since 2012. The primary driver has been the reflation trade in the United States — given many of these nation’s ties to commodities, developing markets have often done very well in periods of inflation.
Add that to other positives — young workforces, massive consumer potential and rising GDPs — emerging markets (even the BRICS) are once again the place to be.
Today, we’ll look at three BRICS stocks to buy today.
BRICS Stocks to Buy: BRF SA (BRFS)
When you think beef, odds are you think Texas. But instead of the Lone Star state, you should be thinking about … Brazil.
Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef and poultry. And BRF SA (ADR) (NYSE:BRFS) just happens to take the crown when it comes to that exporting. The former Brasil Foods ships its meat to more than 150 different countries — both emerging and developed — around the world.
BRF SA is a (pardon the pun) prime example of how country of origin can be meaningless. The bulk of BRFS’ revenues are generated outside of Brazil’s borders.
Its dominant position as the world’s largest exporter of chicken and beef is reason alone to consider the stock. However, the firm has expanded heavily in prepackage foods in recent years. These higher-margin goods have allowed BRF SA to overcome some of the weakness in the global poultry market.
The company also is the biggest producer of halal meat in the world — a growing demand, and higher margins help here too.
All told, BRF SA has great financials including low debt leverage and healthy cash positions. Still, BRFS is treated like a castaway, paying just 6 times forward earnings despite a nearly 3% dividend yield to boot.
BRICS Stocks to Buy: HDFC Bank (HDB)
India has a population of 1.25 billion (at least as of 2013), and it’s one of the best emerging markets to own for rising consumerism.
While that means a boon for consumer stocks, it also means big things for financial services. India features one of the largest un– and underbanked populations in the entire world. And HDFC Bank Limited (ADR) (NYSE:HDB) happens to be the superstar of this banking-starved BRICS market.
HDB is India’s second largest private lender. That position has suited it well over the years as it has managed to produce a staggering 29% annual average growth over nearly two decades. And while performing loans helped, the real story is reaching out and getting more customers.
As corporate lending has stalled, HBFC has plowed heavily into personal and retail banking and lending. Even better: HBFC is the leading credit card issuer in India. While net interest margins aren’t as large down on the retail side, there is tremendous volume and potential to pick up more down the road. New initiatives such as mobile and text message banking are designed to add these underbanked customers to its mix.
The opportunity for financial services across numerous emerging markets is huge. HBFC is one of the best BRICS stocks to buy to play the trend.
BRICS Stocks to Buy: Alibaba (BABA)
China is the king of emerging markets. While its growth isn’t as breakneck as it used to be, and while other EMs are growing more quickly, China still has enormous potential not just because of its own populace, but the potential for international expansion by its larger firms.
Thus, if you were to buy and hold just one Chinese stock, it would have to be Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd (NYSE:BABA).
Heck, it might even be the best tech stock across all markets.
InvestorPlace’s Jeff Reeves points out at MarketWatch that:
“China’s internet population just surpassed 730 million after a roughly 6% growth rate last year. That number is more than the entire population of the U.S., Russia, Japan and Germany combined.”
What’s more: This number still is growing. We’re only about halfway regarding China’s total population.
As the nation’s leading e-commerce site, BABA is at the forefront to profit from the digital revolution in China. Perhaps more importantly, it does so very profitably. See, Alibaba is unlike rival Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) in that it doesn’t sell products from its own warehouses and holds the inventory. Alibaba only acts as a middleman for other retailers. That means higher margins per transaction.
And as BABA continues to expand into non-core, but still significant opportunities — cloud computing, logistics, financial services — its fortunes should grow as well.
Alibaba stock trades at 23 times forward earnings, so it’s hardly cheap. But this BRICS stock represents perhaps the world’s best e-commerce firm in the world’s largest emerging market. That premium is worth it.
As of this writing, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.