两年前，高盛（Goldman Sachs）的策略师们做出了一项推荐。他们选出了被称为金砖四国“漂亮50”（BRICs Nifty 50）的两篮子股票，其中一个篮子是新兴市场股票，另一个是有新兴市场业务的跨国公司股票。这些策略师们的建议是，可根据哪类股票提供更好的相对价值或增长前景，在两个篮子间来回跳转。过去5年，这两个篮子都有不错的增长。
但现在欧洲经济岌岌可危，美国经济复苏缓慢，投资者们心里又打起了小算盘。新兴市场咨询机构 Emerging Global Advisors的创始人罗伯特•赫德斯称，人们都说跨国公司为希望投资高速成长市场的投资者们提供了第二条道路。然而，真相是当投资者着眼于新兴市场而买进跨国公司股票时，他们同时也买入了这些公司正在走下坡路的发达市场业务。“这一点极大的稀释了（投资价值），” 他说。
赫德斯的观点是像百胜餐饮集团（Yum! Brands）、可口可乐这样的公司在新兴市场的成功故事让投资者变得盲目。以肯德基（KFC）、塔可钟（Taco Bell）的母公司——百胜餐饮为例，过去5年间，它在中国的销售额每年增长20%。公司的最新年报写道：“在中国，我们仍处于发展的初期阶段。”
Ever since the great crash of 2008, when emerging markets plummeted more than 50%, one strategy has jumped in popularity: buying multinationals to play the fast-growing markets. Giants like Coca-Cola rarely collapse like their developing markets-based competitors. They sell into all the hottest markets such as Brazil, India, and China. And nowadays, multinational CEOs seem to begin every conversation with a story about these far-flung markets.
Goldman Sachs strategists came out with an endorsement two years ago. They composed two baskets of stocks and called them the BRICs Nifty 50. One includes emerging market companies; the other has multinationals with exposure to emerging markets. The strategists concluded that you could hop back and forth between the baskets, depending which stocks offered better relative value or growth prospects. And over the past five years, both groups have risen nicely.
But now, with European economies in shambles and the U.S. undergoing a slow recovery, investors are turning that wisdom on its head. The myth of multinationals, says Robert Holderith, founder of Emerging Global Advisors, is that they provide investors an alternative path into explosive growth markets. The truth is that when you buy multinationals for emerging markets, you also buy their sagging developed markets businesses. "It's too watered down," he argues.
Holderith's point is that emerging market success stories from companies like Yum! Brands and Coca-Cola (KO) have blinded investors. Take Yum (YUM), parent company of fast-food restaurants including KFC and Taco Bell. Over the past five years, its sales in China have grown by 20% annually. "And we're just on the ground floor of growth in China," reads its latest annual report.
The problem is that in the same time frame, Yum's U.S. sales fell by 6% annually -- from $5.6 billion to $4.1 billion. The overall result: a middling, single-digit sales growth rate. Yum shares have rocketed upward. But in the future can you trust its overseas growth to make up for its slowing home market? Moreover, can you consistently pick the best multinationals?