3 Global Giants to Power Your Portfolio

LONDON -- To me, there's an awful lot of sense in "anchoring" your portfolio with solid, dependable businesses that look set to generate dividends and capital growth for years to come -- which is precisely one reason, of course, why both my ISA and SIPP portfolios are solidly anchored with index trackers following the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) .

The FTSE's 10 largest shares account for 46% of the exchange. These businesses are global giants in every sense -- businesses such as Vodafone, the second-largest business in the FTSE by market cap, or Royal Dutch Shell, the seventh-largest.

Beaten-down bargains
But despite the low costs, some of the market's most attractive index-tracking exchange-traded funds and tracker funds -- charms that have only increased since Vanguard launched its new range of low-cost ETFs, which went live this week -- index trackers aren't for everybody.

Some investors, in short, want direct exposure to the underlying shares, figuring that buying the businesses directly allows them to avoid paying even the miserly total expense ratios levied by industry leaders Vanguard and other low-cost tracker providers.

And right now the FTSE's top 10 contains no fewer than three global giants that are facing headwinds. Their share prices are depressed, and they stand on beaten-down price-to-earnings ratios. Buy into these global giants, goes the logic, and you'll still get a decent chunk of the FTSE 100's biggest businesses -- but at bargain prices, with every prospect of an FTSE-beating upside.

So here they are.

The bargains start at the top of the pile with banking behemoth HSBC  (NYS: HBC) , which is Britain's largest quoted company and the world's second-largest banking and financial services group. Dating from 1865, the bank has long since outgrown its roots as the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and it has been headquartered in London since 1993.

Now, you don't need me to tell you that banks haven't had a good recession, and HSBC's share price certainly reflects this. Down from over 8 pounds in 2007, the bank's shares closed on Wednesday night at 507 pence, placing it on a forecast P/E of less than eight.

But HSBC didn't need a bailout, and it hasn't had to be recapitalized. And it does have a global footprint and is particularly strong on its home turf of Asia -- where a very sizable proportion of its revenues are earned.

One to buy and tuck away for the long term? I think so.

  (NYS: BP) was once Britain's largest quoted business, with a market capitalization that was almost 25% higher than the No. 2 share.

But the last few years haven't been kind to BP. There was the 2005 explosion at the company's Texas City Refinery, for instance, that killed 15 workers and injured 170 others. In the same year, Hurricane Dennis nearly destroyed the company's massive Thunderhorse production platform in the Gulf of Mexico. More recently, there's been the fallout of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, two abrupt departures of the company's chief executive, and a long-running spat with the co-owners of the company's massive Russian oil interests.

In short, far from trading at 6 pounds or so, BP's shares languished on Wednesday at just 395 pence, placing them on an undemanding prospective rating of 5.6 -- surely bargain territory.

Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto
  (NYS: RIO) is the FTSE's ninth-largest business by market capitalization. And it, too, has taken a battering in recent times -- leaving its shares priced at tasty-looking levels.

Before the recession, on the back of booming demand from China, its shares were changing hands at 60 pounds. They closed on Wednesday night at 27.90 pounds, down 40% or so over the past year. The reason? The resources cycle and -- once again -- slowing demand from China. Rated on a decidedly undemanding P/E of 5.5, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Rio currently looks appealing.

This free report from The Motley Fool -- "Top Sectors for 2012" -- not only gives you the names of nine other beaten down miners, but it also profiles a relative minnow of which I wasn't previously aware. With its substantial free cash flow and stout balance sheet stuffed with cash, I'm certainly keen to find out more. As I say, the report is free, so what have you got to lose by requesting a copy? It can be in your inbox in seconds.

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Further investment opportunities:

At the time this article was published Malcolm owns shares in BP, but none of the other businesses mentioned here.Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Vodafone Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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