3 big ways to bank on Brazil

This booming emerging market remains a red-hot opportunity for investors.

By InvestorPlace Aug 29, 2011 12:49PM

By Jeff Reeves, Editor, InvestorPlace.com

In July, some soccer fans were surprised as star footballer Carlos Tevez was debating a departure from England's Premier League to take up a spot on the roster of a team based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Why would a top player even think of abandoning the bright lights of Europe’s soccer scene for a second-tier market in Latin America?

However, this is not a new trend. As The Financial Times reported a few weeks ago, soccer salaries in Brazil have been soaring as the pay scale in Europe has flatlined. If this trend keeps up, Europe might become the second-tier market before long.

Why should you care if you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who couldn’t care less about soccer? Because this trend says a lot about Brazil, its middle class and the region’s economy in general - especially as an investment opportunity.

A booming middle class has money to burn on TVs, cell phones, expensive foods -- and yes, even soccer tickets. The result is big growth in just about every corner of Brazil’s economy.

So how can you get in on this boom? Here are three big reasons to bank on Brazil, and stocks to watch that are sharing in the nation’s success:

Domestic Blue Chips Throwing Billions at Brazil

Domestic superpowers are rapidly investing in Brazil. General Electric (GE) CEO Jeffrey Immelt said recently in Rio: "We see exciting growth in Brazil of more than 30% this year in energy, infrastructure, transport and health care.” The multinational conglomerate has its fingers in a lot of areas that are booming in Latin America, and Brazil is a big player in this international growth. General Electric is investing $570 million in Brazil in the 2010-13 period to expand its health care equipment, locomotives, turbines, wind-power equipment and other industrial areas.

Earlier in the year, Wal-Mart (WMT) announced plans to invest almost $760 million in Brazil this year to open 80 stores. These companies are spending money with the hopes of making even more money.

The Hottest Single-Market ETF

You’ll never make a fortune running with the herd on Wall Street, but it’s certainly worth your while to know where the herd is headed before you decide to change course. And the bottom line is that Brazil, above all other emerging markets, is a favorite among investors.

The iShares MSCI Brazil ETF (EWZ) is the largest non-U.S., single-country ETF, with about $10.5 billion in assets under management as of this writing -- up $1 billion in about a year’s time and growing all the time. The fund covers mostly large-caps and Brazil’s biggest-name brands, and it is a great way to give investors exposure to the booming market. Its popularity speaks of how highly Wall Street thinks of Brazil.

And if you’re a super Brazil Bull, there’s even a leveraged ETF just for Brazil, the ProShares Ultra MSCI Brazil Fund (UBR) that seeks to deliver 200% of the daily performance of the MSCI Brazil Index -- but obviously this is a much more aggressive play.

Emerging-Markets Stocks With Consumer Clout

Perhaps the biggest appeal of Brazil on a broad-based tack is that stocks have some built-in growth as the rise of the middle class in the region continues to lift stocks that are considered dead money in the U.S.

Take beverage giant Companhia de Bebidas das Americas (ABV), or Ambev for short. This beverage giant is a consumer staples stock that in America would normally be considered a sleepy play that is conservative and recession-proof but not altogether sexy. Yet Ambev boasts explosive growth potential. Its second-quarter net profit leaped 20% according to ABV earnings a few weeks ago. And share prices are up more than 7% so far in 2011 and over 50% in the past 12 months -- compared with a slight loss for the Dow since January and only 11% gains in the past 12 months.

Although other consumer staples stocks like Coca-Cola (KO) also have outperformed the market - a slight gain in 2011 and about 20% returns in the last year -- they still are well behind the “sleepy” staples stocks of Brazil.

Jeff Reeves is editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.

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Aug 30, 2011 3:32AM
Starbucks is planning on dramatically increasing it's presence in Brazil.  Howard, the CEO of Starbucks, knows what he's doing and how to handle different cultures.  They are a good bet for Brazil.  The rising middle class will also be buying iphones and ipads.  Apple and Starbucks will do very well in Brazil.  Search Google for "land of sheep" and you'll find some interesting posts on international investing with a major focus on the major emerging markets like Brazil.
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