Feeding An Emerging Latin America

By Aaron Levitt | September 01, 2009 AAA

While the growth of China's consumer base gets a lot of attention from investment professionals and is one the main catalysts for long-term grow going forward, there are other nations facing the same trends. Looking at the other BRIC nations, we see that Brazil and the rest of Latin America share similar traits to China and its consumers. With nearly 371,000,000 people within its borders and ever increasing wealth tied to its natural resources, South America is experiencing the consumer revolution as readily as China.

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An Army Moves on its Stomachs
With increasing wealth comes increasing appetites for "American" style goods and services. One of the better areas to exploit as an investor is food production. As nations grow richer, a diet of staples shifts to that of convenience. People have the money to spend on more exotic foods and crave new sources of protein. Substance gives way to satisfaction.

To that end, Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT) or Kellogg's (NYSE: K) can be a homerun for long-term patient investors. By focusing on how a nation eats, we can tap directly into the fabric of that nation's growth.

A Mega-Food Merger
In a strange twist of fate, frozen protein giant Sadia (NYSE: SDA) is being acquired by rival food goliath Perdigao, now known as Brasil Foods (NYSE: PDA). Years earlier it was Sadia who made an unsuccessful bid for Perdigao. The resulting processed food company, Brasil Foods, will result in nearly $11 billion in annual sales and touch every aspect of the grocery business, from frozen pizzas to fresh chicken.

The merger also will see 45% of that 11 billion coming from exporting beef, pork and other commodity based foods to Europe, Asia and the Middle East, giving investors a potential tapping into the emerging economies located there. In exchange for each common and preferred share of Sadia, investors will receive 0.132998 common shares of Brasil Foods. Shares of both companies have rallied since the news broke. Analysts predict that the PDA shares could continue to rally an additional 36% and represent long term bullishness on the sector.

Hitting the Bottle
Companhia de Bebidas Das Americas (NYSE: ABV), better known as AmBev, is the fourth largest beer maker in the world and is the dominant force in the six major markets in which it operates. In addition, the company is the largest Pepsi (NYSE: PEP) distributor in Latin America and owns the Canadian brewer Labatt.

AmBev's recent second-quarter earnings performance illustrates the benefits of emerging markets food sector investing. Profit's at the brewer rose nearly 34%, and its revenue climbed 13% from the year-ago period. Shares of the beverage maker trade near its 52-week high at a P/E of 15. AmBev yields 1.6%.

The Bottom Line
While a basic necessity, investing in food allows a portfolio to tap into the growing economies of the world. By placing our bets with the major food manufacturers in emerging markets, we can play the growth of their consumers. Both AmBev and Brasil Foods offer investors a great way to do just that for Latin America, one of better growth stories out there. (For more, read Evaluating Country Risk For International Investing.)

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