Down 23% in 12 months: Is the Woolworths Limited share price a bargain?

Credit: Scott Lewis

Another day, another decline has been an all too familiar story for shareholders of Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW) in the last 12 months. Its shares have finished the day in the red once again, extending its 12-month decline to over 23%.

This decline won’t come as a big surprise to investors considering the well-documented demise of the company’s Masters brand. This ill-fated move into the home improvement market was a key part of the recent half-year loss of $973 million.

The failure of Masters is a bitter blow for shareholders with rivals Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) and Metcash Limited (ASX: MTS) now likely to seize control of this lucrative market through their Bunnings and Mitre 10 brands, respectively.

This means that the company will now have to focus on other areas of its business in order to fuel future growth.

But where will that come from?

Its Dan Murphy’s and BWS brands are at least a couple of bright spots. It was reported this week by the Sydney Morning Herald that Dan Murphy’s online business is growing at three times the rate of its bricks-and-mortar stores.

Despite upstarts such as the excellent Vinomofo challenging in the space, Dan Murphy’s is Australia’s leading online liquor retailer with a market share of over 50% and 1.4 million members of its loyalty program.

In the last fiscal year its liquor businesses grew sales by 4% to $7.7 billion. Growth has accelerated so far this year, with half-year sales increasing by 5% over the same period last year. Because of this I believe we will be seeing another full-year record performance from the segment in 2016.

Around 18 months ago the company bought Chinese liquor business Summergate. As many investors will have noticed, there is a growing demand for wine in China. In January, Treasury Wine Estates Ltd (ASX: TWE) upgraded its half-year profit guidance by 17% on the back of rising demand in the country.

Although no actual figures were provided, management has said that the Summergate business provided strong sales results in the first half of the year. If Woolworths is able to capture some of this demand through its Chinese operations, then it could be a growth story waiting to happen.

I feel for long-term investors the shares of Woolworths at the current price are a good buy. There will no doubt be many ups and downs on the road ahead, but I believe the shares will ultimately provide patient investors with strong returns.

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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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