Is Cochlear Limited one of the best blue-chip shares to own? 

Credit: PerformanceHealth

Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH) is far from a household name like Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW), yet I believe it is one of Australia’s best companies. It is the world’s leading implantable hearing aid manufacturer, producing what are widely regarded as the finest products in the industry by some distance.

The company exports its products all over the world and the falling Australian dollar will benefit the company as it earns money overseas. Currently the Americas accounts for approximately 43% of revenue, with the EMEA segment providing 40% of revenue, and Asia-Pacific contributing the remaining 17% of revenue.

It is clear to see the impact that the weaker Australian dollar had on the company’s results in the Americas in the last annual report. For the year ended June 30 2015 sales revenue in the Americas increased by 26% to $403 million. On a constant currency basis sales would have been up by 15% year over year. The Australian dollar averaged 0.844 U.S. cents during this time, so with it now down to 70 U.S. cents, I believe revenue in the Americas segment could be about to increase by similar levels in financial year 2016.

Being a manufacturer of implantable hearing aids the most obvious target market for the company is the Baby Boomers generation. According to the United States Census Bureau, presently there are 67 million Americans that are aged 60 and older. This is expected to grow to over 77 million by 2020, which I believe will give Cochlear the ability to maintain high levels of earnings growth for many years to come.

There have been fears in the past that a manufacturer in China might pop up and replicate what they do and undercut them. If this were to happen then earnings could take a hit, causing share price declines. But so far nothing material has eventuated and the company is looking stronger by the year. Although it does face real competition from Swiss rival Sonova.

Trading at 30x forward earnings Cochlear’s shares are trading at a premium to the healthcare industry which trades at 25 times forward earnings. But, I do believe it is worthy of paying a premium when you consider the strong growth that lies ahead, its dominant position in the market, and the growing dividend it pays out which is currently a fully-franked 2.2%.

Foolish takeaway

Cochlear is in my opinion one of the best blue-chip shares you could own on the Australian Stock Exchange. It may not come cheap, but I believe it still offers better value than shares in companies like Primary Health Care Limited (ASX: PRY) and Healthscope Ltd (ASX: HSO). I expect the shares to finally break through the $100 mark by the end of this year.

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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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