as part of our
With the economies in both Brazil and China slowing down,
foreign investors have finally begun to look beyond the
BRICs-Brazil, Russia, India and China-for growth opportunities.
However, they run the risk of throwing the baby out with the
bathwater, because these slowdowns often create attractive
is an excellent case in point.
Over the past year, Brazil's gross domestic product (
) growth has slowed markedly, falling from 7.5 percent to almost
nothing in the second quarter of 2012, largely because of a drop
off in raw materials exports and industrial output. The simmering
European debt crisis and weakened Chinese demand are largely to
However, the slowdown in Brazil's economic growth has yet to
significantly affect the average Brazilian. Unemployment in the
country remains at a record low of 6 percent, with more than 1
million jobs created so far this year, which has maintained upward
pressure on wages.
So far, the Brazilian government and central bank have
effectively deployed stimulus measures-such as slashing interest
rates and investing heavily in infrastructure-to at least keep the
economic engine warm. As a result, an investment bet on the newly
expanding middle class in the country is looking attractive.
Companhia Basileira de Distribuicao
), which does business as Grupo Pao de Acucar, is Brazil's largest
retailer, operating a huge chain of more than 1,500 supermarkets,
department stores and hypermarkets throughout the country. Think of
it as the Brazilian counterpart to Wal-Mart (
). The company also has a sizable real estate operation as a result
of developing sites for its growing store footprint.
Despite Brazil's slowing economy, retail sales in the country
have been growing by an average of 7 percent per month for the
better part of three years. That's largely thanks to rising
incomes. Brazilian incomes have grown by about 11 percent over the
past decade, which has generated a large and growing consumer class
that's eager to enjoy the fruits of a higher standard of
That's created a boom for Companhia Basileira de Distribuicao,
which has seen sales and revenues consistently rise for more than 4
years. The retailer's gross sales rose by 8.4 percent in the first
half of the year to BRL27.1 billion. Same-store sales grew by 7.6
percent compared to the same period last year.
Earnings rose by 48.3 percent to BRL331 million, while net
margin softened slightly to 1.4 percent largely because of price
deflation in goods such as fresh produce. However, the company's
solid same-store sales growth is a clear indication that domestic
demand has held up well in the country.
As a result, management has remained largely sanguine in its
business outlook, opting to continue working its BRL1.8 billion
investment program for this year. Already holding a sizable book of
properties in the areas in which the company plans to expand, most
of that investment will be made in construction.
Pushing forward is probably a wise decision given that in late
August Brazil's central bank lowered its benchmark overnight rate,
known as the Selic rate, to a record low 7.5 percent, a 500 basis
point drop over the past year. Although that's a clear signal that
the government is trying to stave off further weakness in the
economy, the move will radically drop Companhia Basileira de
Distribuicao's already low borrowing costs.
Companies that can afford to expand in weak times enjoy a
greater share of the boom in a recovery. As the ranks of shoppers
in Brazil continue to swell, Companhia Basileira de Distribuicao
will be right next door to accept their reals. For several more
emerging market stock picks, check out
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