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ASX shares tapping into the US market – Motley Fool Australia

These ASX shares have entered the gigantic US market and are doing well. But how can you judge whether a company will be successful in the US?

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Australia has a number of companies that are either based in the United States (US) or have significant operations there, yet are still listed as ASX shares. This is a move that buy now, pay later (BNPL) giant Afterpay Ltd(ASX: APT) is trying to make right now. And who can blame them? The size of the US retail market surpassed US$5 trillion in 2017, compared to Australia’s total retail turnover of approximately AU$329.6 billion in 2019.
You see this market size discrepancy play out in almost every area of economic activity, including the healthcare space, defence, aerospace, or the housing industry. However, for some ASX shares, expansion into the US doesn’t always work out for the best.
A cautionary tale 
Servcorp Limited(ASX: SRV) provides serviced offices, virtual offices, coworking spaces, and meeting rooms. Its business had been ailing for a long time in the US market, describing its problems as being too culturally Australian for the American market. Furthermore, it has recently announced a move to halve the company’s US offices, naming the COVID-19 crisis as the last straw.
Treasury Wine Estates Ltd(ASX: TWE) has also been having problems in the US market for well over a year, due to an industry wide glut that has been compounded by the coronavirus crisis. This ASX share has flagged a demerger of its Penfolds business by the end of FY21. In addition, it has been under increasing pressure since the end of January to act on poorly performing US assets, particularly after a raft of departures from its US business had impacted earnings.
The retail space
So, expansion into the US can go badly, but it can also go very well. Sezzle Inc(ASX: SZL) is an ASX share that is a native US BNPL company. In fact, it is not active in the Australian market at all. In my view this provides the company with an immediate advantage over, say, Afterpay, as it already has a head start in the much larger US market.
In fact, Sezzle reported on 7 July that at the end of H2 FY20 the company had a pre-existing network of 1.48 million consumers and 16,112 merchants. Significantly, 87.5% of the company’s consumers were repeat purchasers.
Chasing on Sezzle’s heels in the US is its BNPL competitor, Zip Co Ltd(ASX: Z1P). Zip Co has entered the US via the acquisition of US BNPL company QuadPay. This provides it with a pre-existing network for its additional credit offerings. On completion, this will boost the company’s global network to 3.5 million customers and 26,200 merchants. Of these, 1.5 million, over 3,500 merchants are from the QuadPay network in the US. 
The defence market
There are several Australian defence contractors with active operations in the US. This is a market where $729 billion was spent in 2019 alone – greater than the cumulative defence spending of countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France, Japan, Germany, and South Korea. 
Austal Limited(ASX: ASB) is Australia’s largest ASX defence share, as well as being the world’s largest builder of aluminium ships. In June, the company also announced the provision of US$50 million in funding from the US government. This is to maintain, protect, and expand US domestic production of steel shipbuilding capabilities for capital projects over the next 24 months.
In February, Austal had a forward order book of $4.9 billion, most of which is to build ships for the US Navy.
Xtek Ltd(ASX: XTE) is another Australian defence contractor with existing ties to US defence forces. The company has entered the US retail market via the acquisition of HighCom, a US body armour manufacturer. Furthermore, agencies of the United States Department of Defense use the company’s electric-powered, hand-launched unmanned aircraft system. 
I think the potential for XTEK to expand in the US is huge. By purchasing an existing, successful franchise it can leverage that company’s networks and sales channels. XTEK has a range of products for use by security and defence sector entities that can be distributed via these channels.
Foolish takeaway
The US is definitely the place to be for many sectors. However, not all ASX shares that try to enter the US markets are successful. I would look at companies that have either a proven track record of achievement, like Austal or Sezzle. Or alternatively, a company that has acquired a successful US-based business to give themselves a head start, such as Zip Co or XTEK.
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