Is it time to sell Blackmores Limited shares? 

CREDIT: Colin Dunn

If there was one share constantly on the lips of investors in 2015 it was vitamins and supplements provider Blackmores Limited (ASX: BKL), which climbed over 500% during the year.

In 2016 it has been a very different story and, according to Google Finance, the shares are now down over 22% year to date as of Wednesday’s close. The question on investors’ lips now is whether this is the start of further declines or just a blip on the way to a higher share price.

The share price grew at such a high rate on the back of ever-increasing expectations of future earnings growth by investors due to its expansion into the Asian market. Now, we all know that China is a lucrative market and does send investors into a frenzy at times, but was it justified?

Well, I feel the average Chinese consumer has little trust in its own manufacturers. At least when the products relate to health. The Chinese milk scandal that hit the country in 2008, combined with high levels of disposable income means that there is the potential for extremely strong demand.

Blackmores’ full year report shows that total revenue grew 36% year over year to $471.6 million, which is quite outstanding. The majority of the gains came from the Australia segment, and not its overseas segments. But the company does believe that Chinese tourists and ex-pats are buying and taking or sending back its products to China, so there is an Asian influence here.

From the $471.6 million revenue the company produced net income of $46.6 million, which equates to a net profit margin of approximately 9.9%. On a per share basis, earnings came in at 270.7 cents.

Looking ahead at what analysts are expecting for the current fiscal year has me a little nervous. According to CommSec earnings per share are expected to come in at 609.6 cents, a 125% rise year over year. By my calculations, for Blackmores to achieve this level of growth it will need to pull in net income of $104.9 million on revenue of $1.06 billion, presuming margins stay the same. As management made no mention of margin improvement in its annual report I feel it is safe to presume it will stay at a similar level.

As bullish as I am on the shares, I just don’t believe it will achieve this level of growth in the current fiscal year. With the shares trading at a trailing price-to-earnings ratio of 63 I fear a significant share price decline could occur if the company fails to deliver on market expectations. For this reason I would stay away from Blackmores, at least until the company has reported its half-year earnings which will give us a good indication of how the company is tracking.

Foolish takeaway

Unfortunately not all quality companies are quality investments all the time. Right now Blackmores represents too risky an investment for me and I would be more inclined to invest in more reasonably priced growth shares such as CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) and ResMed Inc. (CHESS) (ASX: RMD).

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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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