Mexico gets no love. It’s not quite a developed market, but being next door to the United States it’s not quite remote or exotic enough to be an alluring emerging market either. And starting with the letter “M,” it doesn’t fit into any popular acronyms.
Lest you think I am joking, the four countries that comprise the “BRIC”—Brazil, Russia, India and China—have nothing in common other than the fact that their first letters make a word that sounds good in marketing literature. Mexico, Turkey, and Indonesia would all have been better choices than Russia—all three are promising emerging markets whereas Russia is a decrepit petrostate on the decline—but it’s hard to form an acronym with their first letters. Go ahead. Try. I’m waiting.
Investors who overlook Mexico do so to their own detriment. In addition to being an attractive market in its own right—and the second-largest in Latin America after Brazil—Mexico is also a large investor in other Latin American markets, and some of its multinational companies have a truly global scope.
The Mexican stock market has also been a star performer in 2012. At time of writing, the Mexican IPC Stock Index was up over 10 percent, making it one of the better performing markets in the Americas.
Mexico’s economy is tied closely to that of the United States—“El Coloso del Norte” accounts for more than 70% of Mexico’s substantial exports—so a relapse into recession by the United States would severely crimp growth south of the border. I am not expecting a U.S. recession, however, and instead expect the U.S. economy to muddle through with positive, if modest, growth.
The drug-related violence in northern Mexico is also disconcerting—and bad for cross-border commerce and tourism—though I don’t see it being a deal breaker for investors in Mexican stocks. If I were the CEO of a U.S. manufacturing firm, I might think twice about setting up a new factory in Mexico. But as a portfolio manager looking for access to rising Mexican consumer incomes, the risks are tolerable.
Investors wanting exposure to Mexico can buy shares of the popular iShares MSCI Mexico ETF ($EWW). But today, I’m going to recommend three solid Mexican multinationals I expect will outperform the broader index.
I’ll start with America Movil ($AMX), the international cellular service juggernaut controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim. America Movil is the chief competitor in Latin America of long-time Sizemore Investment Letter recommendation Telefonica ($TEF). America Movil is dominant in the lucrative Mexican market, and it is a force to be reckoned with in most of South America.
Mobile phones are ubiquitous in Latin America, but the market is still far from saturated. And the upgrade cycle to higher-margin smart phones is just beginning. America Movil is a fine way to invest in the emerging market consumer.
The next pick is Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa ($TV), one of the largest in the Spanish-speaking world. Televisa is best known in the United States for the soccer games, colorful game shows and (truly awful) telenovela soap operas broadcast by its Univision segment, but the company’s operations include paid television and print media as well.
Like America Movil, Televisa is a play on rising incomes in Latin America and rising incomes and influence among the U.S. Spanish-speaking population. As Latin consumers climb the income scale, the returns to advertising to them rise as well, which benefits media companies.
Mexican and South American consumers are also embracing paid TV in higher numbers, which was the rationale for my recommendation of DirecTV ($DTV) in the Sizemore Investment Letter. This is a long-term trend that should have multiple years to fully play out.
The last pick will be a little more controversial: Mexican cement giant Cemex ($CX). Cemex is one of the largest cement and construction materials companies in the world. Not surprisingly, Cemex got absolutely hammered during the Great Recession, as new building projects ground to a halt in many countries.
Cemex also fell victim to crisis of its own doing. The company borrowed heavily to finance its international expansion, and when the Mexican peso plunged in value during the 2008 meltdown the company fell into financial distress due in part to its use of derivatives.
Cemex’s share price lost more than 90% of its value in the aftermath, but since then the company has stabilized. The share price has more than doubled in the past year, and more gains are likely if conditions in the global construction industry at least remain stable.
Disclosures: Sizemore Capital is long DTV and TEF.
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