Despite the gloomy outlook for Europe at the end of June with the looming possibility of a Grexit—which is still rumbling along despite a provisional bailout deal being agreed as Europe grapples with the country’s debt—and considerable volatility, the continent’s markets had a happy July. As seen in the chart below, Europe’s key markets were all in fact up for the month.
Despite that news from Europe, and perhaps offset by sinking stock prices in China, iQVP—our premier large-cap international strategy—was down -2.44%. Whilst disappointing for July, especially after outperforming our benchmark—the iShares MSCI EAFE—by a 3.18% margin last month, we continue to outperform on a long-term basis.
Despite being down for the month though, we decided to look at the top performers for iQVP and what stocks might be worth continue watching for the rest of the year.
1. NTT DOCOMO (DCM) +10.14%
Moving up from third biggest return in June to leading the pack in July, the Japanese mobile firm had a relatively quiet month in terms of news, the release of their Q2 results aside.
Their EPS increased from the previous quarter, as did their EBITDA, although revenue was flat. Customer subscriptions rose more than 6% and the number of cell phones sold rose too, by 11.8% to 5.77 million units.
It will be interesting to see whether they make the list of iQVP’s top performers in August as well.
2. RELX (RENX) +9.19%
Another Dutch company on this list, the publisher announced last month good underlying revenue growth in the first half of 2015, and, through further process innovation across our business, continued generation of underlying operating profit growth as well.
3. Telefonica (TEF) +7.61%
The telecommunications giant was in the news more than once this month for its exclusive television coverage of European soccer in Spain. After winning exclusive rights to screen Spain's top football matches next season for EUR600 million ($669 million) at the start of the month, they were fined EUR15.5 million by Spanish regulators for a UEFA Champions League broadcast deal that allegedly infringed EU competition laws.
The company was also helped by positive coverage from JPMorgan, classifying them as Overweight.
Telefonica now has owns the broadcast rights to El Clasico
4. Unilever (UN) +7.15%
Unilever reported second-quarter sales growth that beat estimates on better-than-expected gains in Latin America and a rebound in China. In the multinational's home of Europe however, revenue declined 0.9 percent due to price deflation and poor performance in Scandinavia.
The company has been making a concerted effort into expanding into high-end and boutique alternatives to their established brands of mustard, mayonnaire and skincare. Premium market segments have been highlighted as growing faster than mid-price products in many parts of the U.S. and Europe.
It was also announced that Unilever is seeking a new chairman to replace Michael Treschow, who has been in the job since 2007. The new chairman is expected to be revealed by the end of the year.
5. Ahold (AHONY) +5.56%
The Dutch grocery store chain’s successful month can be easily pinpointed. It was announced on June 24th that Ahold and Belgium's Delhaize Group have agreed a EUR26.07 billion ($28.63 billion) merger to create one of the largest food retailers in both Europe and the U.S.
Caught between discount food retailers such as Costco and high-end grocers like Whole Foods, the companies hope that combining with afford them both a greater store presence on both continents and the opportunity to save considerable costs.
Ahold said it would terminate its continuing share buyback program and return EUR1 billion to shareholders via a capital return and a reverse stock split before completion of the transaction.