Why Ansell Limited could be a bargain blue-chip share

The shares of Ansell Limited (ASX: ANN) have lost around 36 percent from their 52-week highs making for a great investment opportunity in this blue-chip company in my opinion.

Ansell is a global leader in premium quality protective and medical gloves, as well as condoms. The fall in share price appears to be related to the fact that analysts are expecting Ansell to post its first earnings decline in 9 years in 2016.

According to CommSec, analysts are expecting earnings to come in at $1.52 for fiscal year 2016, down from $1.71 in 2015. Unlike companies such as CSL Limited (ASX: CSL)Westfield Corp Ltd (ASX: WFD), and Cochlear Ltd (ASX: COH), that stand to benefit from a strong US dollar, it has a largely negative impact on Ansell’s operations.

This is due to the company operating its business in US dollars, causing sales from exports to come in much lower when converted from local currencies, which have weakened considerably, compared to US dollars.

But this doesn’t mean that Ansell is not a good investment today. I believe the market has priced in this decline in earnings now. Based on the aforementioned analyst forecasts the company is trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 12.8. In the last 10 years the stock has generally traded within a range of 14 to 15x earnings, making the shares a discount at this level.

Looking further ahead, the company has started expanding its manufacturing in Sri Lanka, which should increase capacity and efficiency, whilst keeping expenses down. Management has also stated its intentions to use its strong cash flow levels to target acquisitions with significant earnings per share accretion, as well as to continue its 11-year streak of dividend increases. These moves support the views of analysts which see earnings starting to increase again in 2017 and 2018.

Finally, the company is currently in the middle of a share buy-back program to the value of US $100 million. With the shares trading at low levels there is a good chance the company will be using this as an opportunity to buy-back its shares at a discount. I believe the buying pressure from this program could support the share price and prevent it declining any further, which means there might not be a better time to buy than now.

Foolish takeaway

Investors in Ansell shares have had a tough 12 months, but now the company has adjusted to life with a strong US dollar I believe sales and earnings will start to improve in fiscal 2016. This is a solid company with a strong market position and I believe the share price should start to recover throughout 2016.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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