Unilever plc, Vodafone Group plc And HSBC Holdings plc: The Ultimate Emerging Market Shares?

Today I’m looking at three stocks whose splendid emerging market exposure should deliver exceptional shareholder returns in the years ahead.

Brand beauty

Developing regions have long been a big deal for household goods leviathan Unilever (LSE: ULVR). The business sources more than 40% of revenues from regions like Asia and Latin America, and sales growth here continues to outstrip that of Unilever’s Western territories. The firm saw underlying emerging market sales surge 8.3% between January and March, while sales in established regions slipped 0.3% during the period.

And Unilever’s performance in these far-flung territories continues to gain momentum, with last quarter’s result marking an improvement from the 7.1% advance in 2015, achieved through volume growth in Asia as well as price hikes in other developing territories.

Indeed, Unilever’s ability to raise prices regardless of wider macroeconomic conditions is the firm’s trump card. Brands like Lynx deodorant and Magnum ice cream command consumer loyalty like few others, a quality that Unilever continues to massage through steady product innovation and roll-outs in new markets. And I believe this policy should continue to send sales spiralling higher.

Ring up a fortune

Telecoms giant Vodafone (LSE: VOD) has chucked a fortune at reinvigorating its struggling ops in Europe recently, the firm’s Project Spring organic investment programme significantly boosting the popularity of its voice and data capabilities there.

Still, investors shouldn’t overlook the importance of emerging markets on Vodafone’s growth story. The company saw service revenues in the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific (AMAP) region shoot 6.5% higher during October-December, the company adding 6.3m more customers during the quarter.

And with the business still splashing the cash in these territories — Vodafone built 7,600 more 3G sites in the red-hot Indian market alone in the last quarter — I reckon the telecoms play is in great shape to reap the rewards of rising phone usage in the years ahead.

A financial  favourite

Banking goliath HSBC (LSE: HSBA) disappointed many investors earlier this year by announcing it will remain domiciled in the UK rather than set sail for foreign shores.

For many this decision represented a missed opportunity, but I don’t believe HSBC’s move undermines the terrific growth potential thrown up by its sprawling emerging market presence, particularly in Asia Pacific.

It’s certainly true that HSBC has seen revenues drag more recently as economic cooling has taken hold — indeed, the company witnessed particular softness across its retail operations in Asia last year. Still, the bank saw profits grow ahead of GDP in seven out of eight ‘priority Asia markets‘ in 2015, illustrating the strength of its brand in these regions.

And while HSBC may have agreed to sell its Brazilian operations last year, the company’s ongoing investment drive in China and the surrounding areas should still deliver splendid long-term returns as personal income levels — and subsequently demand for financial products — shoot higher.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended Unilever. The Motley Fool UK has recommended HSBC Holdings. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.