Down 9% in March: Is it time to buy Ramsay Health Care Limited shares?

Credit: loctran7811

Despite the recent sell-off of banking shares, investors should be reasonably happy with the performance of S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) in March. With one day to go, the index has climbed by around 2.5%.

Unfortunately, one share which has not performed as well as the index in March is health care service provider Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX: RHC). This month shareholders have had to sit and watch the shares decline by almost 9%.

The share price decline is most likely attributed to the decision the company made to pull out of a joint venture with Chinese company Jinxin in the city of Chengdu. This would have been the company’s first foray into the massive Chinese market.

As disappointing as this news may have been, it was due to certain conditions from the joint venture not being met. I feel management made the right decision. It is far better that the company waits for the right time to enter the market, rather than rush into things.

I am sure one day we will see China added to its growing list of worldwide operations which total 226 hospitals and medical centres currently. This will be great to see because a weak Australian dollar and the company’s exposure to international markets has proven to be a real boost to its earnings.

Ramsay Health Care has grown its earnings by an impressive 17% per annum on average for the last 10 years. This growth is phenomenal and thanks to the 9% decline we have now seen in March, I believe the shares are a great buy and hold investment today.

With the shares priced at 25 times estimated FY2016 earnings, they are priced just a fraction over the industry average. I believe this slight premium is well worth paying when you consider that according to CommSec, earnings are expected to grow by 21% per annum for the next couple of years.

Despite pulling out of the joint venture in China, I still believe its prospects are far greater than fellow health care shares Healthscope Ltd (ASX: HSO) and Sonic Healthcare Limited (ASX: SHL).

Foolish takeaway

Ramsay Health Care has grown its top and bottom lines each year for 10 successive years. I would not at all be surprised to see the company achieve this feat over the next 10 years as well. I feel quite sure that an expansion into China will come in time, and patient investors will be rewarded.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned. 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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