By Jack Hough
European stocks have gotten significantly cheaper than American ones. The Stoxx Europe 600 index trades at 10.4 times projected earnings, versus 13 times for the S&P 500 index.
Lower prices mean plump dividend yields. The European index pays around 4% at the moment, versus 2.1% for the U.S. one.
Of course, Europe’s stocks are cheap for good reasons, including a fiscal crisis, political turmoil and the threat of a currency shake-up and bank losses.
But some investors see value. “We believe current prices reflect overly pessimistic expectations,” wrote George Evans, director of equities for Oppenheimer Funds, in a Thursday note to clients.
Mr. Evans favors global companies with leading market positions in industries driven by either strong brands or technical expertise. Among his favorites are LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, a Paris-based mash-up of luxury fashion, perfume and wine and spirits brands, and Bayerische Motoren Werke, the German car maker better known as BMW.
He also likes Unilever (UN), the Anglo-Dutch food giant, and two French engineering concerns: Alstom and Technip. Fortunes for both should rise on the current boom in U.S. energy production, he writes.
George Fraise, a principal at Sustainable Growth Advisors, a Stamford, Conn. money manager, also sees good deals among European firms with global revenues. He’s particularly interested in ones that can consistently grow their dividend payments.
Mr. Fraise’s list includes French dairy, water and baby food giant Danone, drug maker Novo Nordisk (NVO) of Denmark, German kidney-dialysis specialist Fresenius Medical Care (FMC) and German software maker SAP (SAP).
Dividend yields for these firms aren’t as especially large: Novo Nordisk pays 1.3% and SAP, 1.4%. But then, Novo Nordisk raised its payment 37% this year and SAP, 79%.
These companies aren’t immune to Europe’s troubles, wrote Mr. Fraise in a Thursday note to clients, but their exposure to fast-growing emerging markets should allow them to thrive despite Europe’s slowdown.