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Three Emerging-Market Gems

This column was originally published on RealMoney on March 15 at 12:30 p.m. EST. It's being republished as a bonus for readers.

"China and India are old news," says a friend of mine who recently retired, thanks to good stock-picking. "Africa, South America and maybe Indonesia or Vietnam are where people should be looking."

With these emerging markets and others just beginning to hit their growth streaks, I like the companies that deal with the technologies that are ramping alongside the GDPs: wireless and banking technology. Three stocks have caught my eye recently: Mobile Telesystems (MBT), Net1UEPS Technologies (UEPS) and America Movil SA de CV (AMX).

With over 59 million customers and the largest mobile network in Russia, Mobile Telesystems is clearly a diamond in the rough. The company grew its subscriber numbers by over 70% in 2005 in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus.

The company sports a ratio of EV (enterprise value, which is market cap minus net cash) to EBITDA of 6.624 and an EV/cash flow from operations of 8. It generated $1.97 billion over the trailing 12 months in operating cash flow, and its balance sheet is in good shape, with $557 million in cash and $2.3 billion in debt that is easily serviced by its $2.42 billion EBITDA.

A look at the annual income statement and cash-flow statement of the past three years further clarifies this company's capabilities. Operating income and cash flow from operations grew every year sequentially. At an EPS of $2.66, this is both a growth story and a multiple expansion story. I think this company will continue to grow revenue through expansion and margin improvement, and because it carries the scarlet letter of Russia, it can be had at a discount. Yes, Russia is now an emerging market, but this company has already arrived.

My second pick takes us on a plane ride from Moscow over the Middle East to South Africa, home of Net1 UEPS Technologies. Net1 markets smart cards and related technologies that are intended to provide a secure and affordable electronic payments system for businesses and the poor in developing countries, where there is often limited access to banks. It is estimated that less than 50% of South African adults have a bank account.

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