Since the very dark days of early March, investors have started to believe again, sending major indices around the world soaring. According to MSCI, U.S. shares have made up their disastrous first-quarter start, when they lost nearly one-quarter of their value, and are now ahead for the year by more than 19% through September 24.

But even more impressive performance has been found abroad over the same period. MSCI's developed market index, the EAFE, was up nearly 26% for the year in U.S. dollar terms. Emerging markets soared by 63.8%. We think some of the best opportunities will be found abroad.

After surveying successful fund managers complemented with our own research, we have compiled a list of nine foreign, well-run industry leaders whose stocks should prove profitable over the long term.

HSBC is Gary Anderson's favorite foreign bank. Anderson, who manages the Scout International Fund with $4.4 billion in assets and who has been outperforming the EAFE by 3.34 percentage points annually over the past five years, has 1.66% in this London-based bank.

He likes the bank because of its superb management. Its loan-deposit ratio is a conservative 85%, and it was among the first banks to aggressively respond to the subprime crisis.

Anderson is keen on HSBC's global diversity. In 2008, $21 billion in sales were generated in North America, $34 billion across Europe, $12 billion from Latin America, $11.6 billion from Asian emerging markets and $12 billion from Hong Kong. This helps insulate the shares from variations in regional growth. But if the global economy freezes up again, Anderson admits the bank will again be exposed, as will virtually all other companies. After losing nearly two-thirds from its 2007 peak of $93, HSBC was trading around $55 at the beginning of October, paying a 4% dividend.

Hennes & Mauritz, aka H&M, is best known for bringing catwalk-like fashion to consumers at affordable prices. It is one of a handful of retailers that have successfully branched out of their home markets and has expanded into 37 countries across the globe. It has done so with efficient execution, says Anderson, who explains the speed with which the company can keep up with the latest fashion trends.

This well-managed company maintains an outstanding balance sheet with no long-term debt, and boasts attractively designed stores. Its revenue has grown at a 12% to 15% annual rate with a stable return on equity of 40%.

Anderson has 1.53% of his assets in the retailer, considering it one of his core holdings. His largest concern about H&M is that the world could fall back into recession. But the company's focus on affordable, fashionable designs for younger consumers focused on spending may shield H&M during difficult times.

The ADR sold off from its December 2007 high of $12.29 to a low of $5.80 in November 2008. At the start of October, shares were trading around $11.

Also in the realm of clothing is Li & Fung, a Hong Kong-based manufacturer for major retailers across the U.S. and Europe, including J.C. Penney, Macy's, Nordstrom, Saks, Gap Inc., Ann Taylor and Abercrombie & Fitch. It's one of the favorite stock plays of Simon Hallett-the CIO of Harding Loevner and the lead manager of its $287 million International Equity Fund.

Hallett, who has outperformed the EAFE at an annual pace of 3.22% over the past three years, says investing in such a successful outsourcing play is the safest way to maintain consumer discretionary exposure. "We see high-quality management sustaining the firm's global competitive advantage, with industry-leading growth and a strong balance sheet." He adds that Li & Fung, whose market cap is $14 billion, is in fact growing and increasing its market share and profitability through what the company describes as the worst industry downturn it has ever experienced. The company's first-half 2009 gross and net margins were right where they were before the recession started, exceeding 11% and 3%, respectively.

Its OTC-traded shares had peaked at just over $4 in mid-2007. It then lost half its value over the following year. But by the end of September 2009, its stock was again brushing up against its previous high.

Hallett also likes the Brazilian energy concern Petroleo Brasileiro, which makes up 1.5% of the fund. Petrobras, as the company is known, has a market cap of $166 billion, making it the fifth-largest integrated oil and gas producer in the world.

Starting this year, the company is embarking on a $174 billion five-year exploration and production that's focused on the pre-salt basins off the Atlantic coast. Discoveries promise to expand the firm's proven reserves by at least 50%. And according to Craig Shaw, an analyst at Harding Loevner who tracks the company, subsequent finds will likely boost reserves a lot more given that only one-third of the targeted offshore region has actually been explored. "Current and future discoveries in the region," says Shaw, "should ensure that this already well-run, solidly growing and profitable energy concern, with historical return on investments running consistently above 20%, will remain a top industry performer."

Since peaking in the spring of 2008 at nearly $75, the company's ADRs collapsed to under $15 by year's end. They have since rallied and increased threefold in price, starting October at $45. And Hallett believes that over the next year, the stock could rise an additional 30%.

In the aftermath of the worst credit crisis since the Great Depression, the most unexpected stock we came across is Experian, a U.K.-based credit information and analytical firm founded in 1980. With a market cap of $8.5 billion, the firm's prime customers are banks, credit companies and governments the world over. And Daniel O'Keefe, co-portfolio manager of the Artisan International Value Fund, holds Experian as his top position, representing 4.9% of the $1.74 billion portfolio. With the fund having outperformed the EAFE by an average of 3.20% per year over the past five years through September, his commitment is a compelling statement.

He thinks the company's focus and business model offer unique access to a key market that is shared globally by only one other meaningful competitor-Equifax. "But Experian is the clear leader," says O'Keefe, "run by solid management that was able to grow the business during the recession." The stock is currently trading at 11 times 2009 earnings, below projected growth rates, which O'Keefe thinks is a solid way to play economic and credit recovery.

The key risk for the company is that the world slides back into a credit crisis. But O'Keefe believes the company's essential data and services provide investors with a buffer against a faltering recovery. However, that's not certain.
After peaking at $14 in the summer of 2007, the ADR fell to $4.15 in October 2008. By the end of September 2009, however, it had doubled in value from its low.

South Korea-based LG Electronics is fast becoming a household name. It wasn't always so. Having transformed itself from a low-end manufacturer to a high-end manufacturer of electronics and home appliances, and having performed extremely well across multiple product lines, the company, with a $14.4 billion market cap, has become one of portfolio manager David Gerstenhaber's favorites.

Gerstenhaber, who manages a total of $550 million, oversees the $65 million Argonaut Global Equities Partnership, a hedge fund with one of the most consistent track records around. The fund has generated annualized returns of 18.8% over the past five years versus MSCI's World Index, which was up 0.49% per year.

Gerstenhaber likes LG Electronics' stable, innovative, highly regarded management, which has expanded sales beyond Asia to draw 31% of revenue from North America and 12% from Europe. He's also attracted to the company's low 2009 earnings multiple of 8.1 times the current stock price-less than half the global consumer technology average. The company also enjoys a projected return on equity of 21%, which is on the high end of the industry average. This has encouraged Gerstenhaber to invest 3.1% of his fund in LG shares.

"LG has been helped by the relative weakness of the South Korean won versus the startling strength of the yen, which has hurt Japanese exports," says Gerstenhaber. One risk, though, is that these currency trends will reverse.

After reaching a high of nearly 160,000 won in spring of 2008, the stock plummeted below 70,000 won in November 2008. It was trading at 110,000 won at the beginning of October 2009.

Madelynn Matlock, manager of the Huntington International Equity Fund, which has outperformed the EAFE by 1.5% annually over the past five years, has 3% of her $313 million fund in Standard Chartered. This U.K.-based bank may be one of the most direct and effective ways of gaining emerging market exposure, with 86% of its revenues coming from Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

It is widely regarded as one of the world's best-run banks with 7% annualized profit growth over the past five years through 2008. Its nonperforming assets as of midyear were less than 1%. In 2008, the net profit margin was 23.79% and return on equity was 15.56%.

Over the past ten years through mid-September, the stock's total annualized returns were 9.28% versus those of the FTSE All-Share Index at 1.86%.

"Standard Chartered is a core position," says Matlock, "with the only caveat being a return of the banking crisis that hit all banks hard, regardless of underlying performance."

The stock hit a high in December 2007 of 1,728 pence, then collapsed to 554 pence in March 2009. It has since soared with emerging markets, starting October at 1,478 pence.

One core holding of Scout International Fund manager Gary Anderson is in the volatile airline industry: Dublin-based Ryanair, which he's held since 2003. With a market cap of $8.8 billion, Ryanair is not your typical airline stock. Modeled precisely after Southwest Airlines' highly efficient model, the company has become the European benchmark for low-cost air transport.

Because of soaring fuel prices, 2008 was the first time the airline lost money. However, its aggressive expansionary strategy has propelled annual sales up 22% over the last five years, giving it a return on equity of 17%. And Anderson believes Ryanair is very well positioned to significantly profit when economic stability returns to the continent.

Anderson's biggest fear is a return of higher oil prices. But this risk should be managed through the airline's normally deft use of futures contracts, locking in today's lower costs.

The airline's ADRs peaked in November 2007 at $49. They steadily declined to a low of $17 in October 2008. A year later, they were trading above $29.

We conclude with Paris-based Veolia Environnement, a stock that, according to Morningstar, is scarcely owned by U.S. mutual fund managers but has become a favorite on the Morgan Stanley report entitled "20 for 2012." The report lists 20 of the highest quality European franchises, companies with business models and market positions that will likely reward investors going forward at a time when many stocks appear to be dislocated from their fundamental valuations.

Veolia's roots date back 155 years. With 2008 revenue of $52 billion, it is a superb way to play the pent-up demand for water across the globe-which will be one of the most pressing issues facing governments in both developed and emerging markets for decades to come. The company also provides waste management, energy and transport-related services.

Veolia offers long-term service contracts to improve infrastructure, which ensures transparency and assures returns on investment. This is in contrast to the huge expenses and uncertain politics associated with the ownership of local resources.

After peaking in late 2007 at above $96, the company's ADR collapsed by nearly 80% when profits were more than halved to $592 million. The shares broke below $21 in mid-March 2009, but then started to recover and at the beginning of October they were at nearly $36. Net income is not likely to recover significantly this year.

Veolia has $8.7 billion in cash, and its market position is protected by limited competition and the high barriers into the industry. But the company's fortunes are geared to the recovery of both the global economy and government budgets to finance the expansion of essential services.