Company profile: Volkswagen is the world's second-largest automaker, with aspirations to be No. 1. Its brands include Volkswagen passenger cars and commercial vehicles, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Scania, SEAT and Skoda.
Investor takeaway: Its shares have gained 27% this year. It has a market value of $50 billion and a dividend yield of 1.42%. The Wolfsburg, Germany, auto maker reported that it delivered 5.1 million passenger cars worldwide in 2011, up 13% from 2010. U.S. sales jumped 26% last year and that was when the economy was struggling.
Adidas (ADDDF)Company profile: Germany's Adidas is the world's second-largest provider of athletic footwear and apparel. Its five brands include: Adidas (73% of sales), Reebok, TaylorMade-Adidas Golf, Rockport and Reebok-CCM Hockey. Its three-stripe shoes and gear is one of the world's most recognized brands. Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 17% this year. U.S. analysts don't cover the company. Sales should boom in this, a summer Olympics year, especially if Adidas-sponsored athletes win gold medals. France Telecom (FTE) Company profile: France Telecom, the primary telephone service provider in France, has a virtual monopoly, but France accounts for only about half of the firm's sales. It also operates in Spain and Poland and provides communications services worldwide. Investor takeaway: Its shares are down 2.8% this year, but that shouldn't deter investors. The $41 billion market value company's shares carry a huge, 9.03% dividend yield, and its strong cash flow is expected to be able to continue this sort of return. Early this month, the company sold its Austrian operations for $1.7 billion. S&P has a "buy" recommendation on its shares with a four star rating out of a possible five. BASF (BASFY) Company profile: BASF, based in Germany, is one of the world's largest and most diverse chemical companies. Its product line includes: specialty chemicals, plastics, performance products, agricultural products, oil and gas production and gas distribution. Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 14% this year and almost 20% in the past three months. It has a $56 billion market value and has a dividend yield of 2.64%. S&P found one "buy" rating, one "buy/hold," and three "holds," in a survey of analysts. Given its size and geographic and product diversity, BASF will weather economic cycles and prosper as the economy recovers. Rio Tinto (RIO) Company profile: The U.K.-based Rio Tinto is one of the world's largest mining companies producing aluminum, copper, diamonds, energy products such as coal, gold, industrial minerals and iron ore. Investor takeaway: Its shares have a market value of $76 billion and carry a 1.51% dividend yield. Morningstar says "Rio Tinto is one of the direct beneficiaries of the increasing appetite for natural resources in China." S&P has a "strong buy" recommendation on its shares and gives the company its top rating of five stars. It has a $78 price target on its shares, which is a 28% premium to the current price.