They're some of the most reliable dividend-paying stocks on earth.
Each one owns a virtual monopoly in its market, practically guaranteeing it will receive uninterrupted revenue for years to come.
Of course, I'm talking about utilities. Their stable demand and consistently high yields make utilities an undoubted favorite among income investors.
Yet despite being wildly popular in the income universe, most people are missing out on the world's best opportunities in this sector...
That's because despite being utilities, investors think the stocks I'm about to tell you about carry too much risk. They've never heard of most of these companies, so they automatically dismiss them as speculative growth plays.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Let me explain...
In the past several years, electric utilities like Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) and American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) have become extremely popular among income investors.
That's to be expected... the steady income offered by this corner of the market is unprecedented. On average, the typical U.S. utility stock yields 3.8% -- almost double the 2% dividend yield offered by the S&P.
But while I wouldn't sneeze at a 3.8% yield, it's only a fraction of what you can receive from this industry.
In fact, I've found a utility stock that pays a 7.1% yield. The company enjoys the same monopolistic advantages as other utility companies, and better yet, unlike traditional utility stocks, it also offers investors the chance to see potentially incredible capital appreciation.
What's the catch? There isn't one. It just so happens that this company doesn't do business in the U.S. But you can buy shares without even leaving the U.S. stock exchanges.
The stock I'm talking about is CPFL Energia (NYSE: CPL) -- the largest electricity transmission and distribution company in Brazil, with more than 7 million customers.
When most investors think of large utility stocks, they don't think about growth. But that's not the case for CPFL.
In the past 10 years, CPFL has a total return of 584%. By comparison, the SPDR Utility Sector ETF (NYSE: XLU) -- a proxy for U.S.-based utility stocks -- returned less than one-fifth that amount, 101% during that period.
What's driving this stellar growth for CPFL Energia? It's the company's location.
In a developed market like the United States, annual growth in electricity demand is modest. In the past 10 years (ending 2011), electricity demand in the U.S. is only up a total of 7%.
But it's a different story in developing countries like Brazil. Between 2001 and 2011, the Brazilian economy demanded 33% more electricity... almost quadruple what U.S. demand grew in that time frame.
That growth has done wonders to the company's top line. In 2010 alone CPFL saw total revenue jump 11.2%. By comparison, Edison International (NYSE: EIX) -- one of the United States' biggest utilities -- only saw a 0.4% increase.
And not only does this utility company offer investors the opportunity for growth, it also enjoys a near-monopoly in its market. Roughly three-quarters of its total power sales are to captive customers who do not have the option of switching to another electric distributor.
Right now, CPFL pays a dividend of $1.64 a year. At today's share price, that represents a current yield of 7.1% -- more than three percentage points higher than the average American utility stock.
Of course with investing, no stock is guaranteed to make you money... even a utility. In fact, shares of CPFL are down over the past few months, which I believe signals a buying opportunity.
But more importantly, stocks like CPFL Energia prove that some of the world's best high-yield securities aren't located in the United States.
[Note: On average, foreign companies tend to pay higher dividend yields than their U.S. counterparts. Don't believe me? Consider this... Out of 227 companies that pay dividend yields over 12%, only 17 of them are located in the U.S. To see the full list of 17 stocks, or to learn more about investing in international dividend payers, follow this link here.]
StreetAuthority Co-founder, Chief Investment Strategist -- Top Ten Stocks, High-Yield International
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Disclosure: Editor Paul Tracy owns share of CPL. StreetAuthority owns shares of CPL as part of the company's various real-money portfolios. StreetAuthority always provides readers with at least 48 hours advance notice before buying or selling any securities in any "real money" model portfolio. Members of our staff are restricted from buying or selling any securities for two weeks after being featured in our advisories or on our website, as monitored by our compliance officer.