Let's be honest: France and the U.S. enjoy an interesting relationship. While the two countries have a long history of cordial diplomatic relations, the reality is Americans think the French don't like us, and many French think of Americans as boorish and uncultured. This gentle (if not petty) rivalry between the two countries has nothing to do with investing, but it may cause some investors in the U.S. to not think about France as a legitimate destination for profit opportunities.

IN PICTURES: 4 Biggest Investor Errors

Obviously, France is a developed market and won't deliver the kind of exciting growth that investors have seen from markets like Brazil or India. That much is evident by the most recent French GDP report. That means it's important to put into context what an investor should expect when investing in French American depositary receipts (ADRs). (Learn more about ADR's in our ADR Basics Tutorial.)

Fortunately, it's easy to sum up French investing: Dividends and yield. While the list of French stocks trading on U.S. exchanges is small compared to say Brazilian and Chinese issues, the list does include a few names that offer sturdy payouts with enticing yields. Let's have a look at a few of them here.

All About An Acquisition
Sanofi Aventis (NYSE:SNY) may be a stock with which many U.S. investors aren't intimately familiar, but if you need some encouragement to take a look at the French pharmaceuticals giant, consider this: Famed value investor Warren Buffett is one of Sanofi's largest shareholders. That's probably because Sanofi offers a decent dividend and fair yield of about 3.1%. That's not jaw-dropping, but certainly better than what you'd get with CDs or Treasuries.

Like it's U.S. peers, Sanofi faces challenges when it comes to organic growth, almost forcing the company to pursue acquisitions of smaller, more nimble biotech companies. The object of Sanofi's desire is Genzyme (Nasdaq:GENZ), one of the top makers of treatments for genetic disorders. Sanofi has offered $69 a share for Genzyme, valuing the company at $18.5 billion, but the bid is now hostile because Genzyme requires a higher offer, perhaps $75 or $80 a share to willingly come to the negotiating table.

At the stock level, Sanofi would be a better buy if it is ultimately successful in acquiring Genzyme because the company's genetic treatments are extremely complex and difficult for generic competitors to copy and generic competition is always a thorn in the side of big pharma.

Dialing Up a French Dividend
Like its U.S. counterparts such as AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), a big part of the allure with France Telecom (NYSE:FTE) is the dividend yield, which now hovers around 5.5%. And like most telecom plays, France Telecom is not growth story, but rather a value play. That said, France Telecom is an interesting way to gain exposure to the frontier market that is Africa, as the company is looking to double its revenue in rural African markets.

Africa is an important market for France Telecom, as highlighted by the company's recent $840 million purchase of a 40% stake in Meditel, Morocco's second-largest mobile phone company. And don't worry about the dividend. France Telecom said earlier this year that the payout is safe through at least 2012.

Oil The French Way
Total (NYSE:TOT), Europe's third-largest oil company, usually doesn't get the attention that its larger European and U.S. peers get, but this is one of the more solid names to be involved with in the integrated oil space. Plus, Total's current yield of 4.7% is superior to what is offered by comparable U.S. oil majors.

Beyond that, Total has been the busiest shopper in the oil patch this year, making 10 acquisitions and selling $4 billion in assets, but the company said in September that it is turning its attention away from acquisitions to growing exploration projects. That could mean good news for the dividend because Total is sitting on $19 billion in cash, the largest hoard of any major oil company.

The Bottom Line
With that kind of cash sitting around and probably no intention to make a major acquisition, Total looks like an ideal candidate for either a dividend hike or a share buyback plan. On the basis of the free cash and rising oil prices, Total is the preferred name of the stocks highlighted here.

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Altria's Return on Equity (ROE) (MO)

    Learn about Altria Group's return on equity (ROE) and analyze net profit margin, asset turnover and financial leverage to determine what is causing its high ROE.
  2. Investing News

    Icahn's Bet on Cheniere Energy: Should You Follow?

    Investing legend Carl Icahn continues to lose money on Cheniere Energy, but he's increasing his stake. Should you follow his lead?
  3. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Google's Return on Equity (ROE) (GOOGL)

    Learn about Alphabet's return on equity. How has its ROE changed over time, how does it compare to its peers and what factors are driving ROE for the company?
  4. Investing News

    Is Buffett's Bet on Oil Right for You? (XOM, PSX)

    Oil stocks are getting trounced, but Warren Buffett still likes one of them. Should you follow the leader?
  5. Investing News

    Chipotle Served with Criminal Probe

    Chipotle's beat muted expectations and got a clear bill from the CDC, but it now appears that an investigation into its E.coli breakout has expanded.
  6. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Sprint Corp's Return on Equity (ROE) (S)

    Learn about Sprint's return on equity. Find out why its ROE is negative and how asset turnover and financial leverage impact ROE relative to Sprint's peers.
  7. Stock Analysis

    Why Alphabet is the Best of the 'FANGs' for 2016

    Alphabet just impressed the street, but is it the best FANG stock?
  8. Investing News

    A 2016 Outlook: What January 2009 Can Teach Us

    January 2009 and January 2016 were similar from an investment standpoint, but from a forward-looking perspective, they were very different.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    3 Vanguard Equity Fund Underperformers

    Discover three funds from Vanguard Group that consistently underperform their indexes. Learn how consistent most Vanguard low-fee funds are at matching their indexes.
  10. Investing News

    Alphabet Earnings Beat Expectations (GOOGL, AAPL)

    Alphabet's earnings crush analysts' expectations; now bigger than Apple?
  1. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between issued share capital and subscribed share capital?

    The difference between subscribed share capital and issued share capital is the former relates to the amount of stock for ... Read Full Answer >>
Trading Center