Markets around the world rally and fall on a regular basis on news related to their political leaders. It is not commonplace to have an entire country's stock market surge on the death of an ex-leader. But that is exactly what happened in late October when the death of Argentina's former leader, Nestor Kirchner, was announced. The news sent most of the Argentina-based stocks that trade in the U.S. higher by double-digit percentages in a matter of days.
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The reason behind the rally is that Kirchner was viewed as anti-markets, and his wife is the current leader of Argentina. The Argentina Merval Index has soared over the past couple of years and is near a historic high after the news sent stocks sharply higher.
A decent number of Argentinean stocks trade in the U.S. as American Depositary Receipts (ADRs). Five such stocks are discussed below.
Telecom Argentina (NYSE: TEO) provides an array of telecommunication services to the country via local landlines, long distance and cellular phones. Since Kirchner's death, the stock is up 8% and during the rally hit a new two-year high. The forward P/E ratio is a reasonable 9.7, and the stock currently pays a 3.4% dividend. The company's most recent earnings report showed a 47% increase in net income, spurred by subscriber growth in advanced services such as high-speed internet. (For related reading, check out Calling Foreign Telecom Stocks.)
Petrobras Argentina (NYSE: PZE) is an oil and natural gas company doing business in South America. The company is also involved in rubbers, fertilizers, electricity generation, lumber and agricultural business. The stock is up 16% since the death, but it's well off the high set back in 2000.
Empresa Distribuidora y Comercializadora Norte (NYSE: EDN) rallied 11% after the death and hit a new two-year high along the way. The electric utility company distributes and sells power to its customers in the northeastern region of greater Buenos Aires. EDN is a small cap that is expected to lose 3 cents per share during fiscal year 2010; and based on that, it's an aggressive play. (For related reading, see Finding Fortune In Foreign-Stock ETFs.)
Banco Marco (NYSE: BMA) is one of the larger banks based in Argentina that has rallied 7% after the news of the death. The initial surge sent the financial firm's shares to a new all-time high. The company offers traditional retail and commercial banking services along with Visa and Amex credit cards and various types of loans. The stock currently pays a 1.7% annual dividend and trades with a modest forward P/E ratio of 13.0.
Grupo Financiero Galicia (Nasdaq: GGAL) is similar to BMA in that it also offers traditional banking services along with the non-traditional annuities, credit cards and foreign exchange services. GGAL has been the big mover, up 34% since Kirchner's death, and trading at its best level in over nine years. The stock is pricier than BMA, trading with a forward P/E of 18.7.
Because there is currently no Argentina ETF available for U.S. investors, I am forced to choose from individual ADRs when looking for exposure to the country. Of the five stocks mentioned, the best opportunity at this time would be BMA based on valuation, dividend and the future of the country's financial sector. (For related reading, see Go International With Foreign Index Funds.)
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