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Farmland, South American Style

Cresud operates within a country that has suffered massive inflation over the years, whose government is not exactly friendly to business. In my view, three "events" in recent years have helped to send shares from the $20 range in late 2011, to the current $8.68 level.

First, the Argentine government nationalized the oil and gas industry in 2012. Second, the government enacted price controls in early 2013, an ill-informed attempt to stem inflation. Third, Cresud's 50.4-cent dividend, which was supposed to have been paid to ADR shareholders on Nov. 27, 2012, was not actually paid until June. This appears to be caused by the company's trouble in getting the Argentina's central bank to allow it to purchase dollars in order to pay shareholders. Argentina certainly is not the U.S.

Argentina Economic Freedom Index Chart Argentina Economic Freedom Index data by YCharts

Due to these events, Cresud has not been your typical buy-and-hold value play. I've been in and out of the stock several times, as Argentine economic events or government control issues have unfolded. My most recent stake was taken after the November dividend was finally paid, and shares are up about 11% since then.

Owning South American farmland via Cresud is certainly not for the faint of heart, but it is another way to gain portfolio diversification.

At the time of publication, Heller owned shares of CRESY.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.

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