Is the Blackmores Limited share price headed over $200 again?

Credit: Blackmores

In 2015, vitamins and supplements provider Blackmores Limited (ASX: BKL) treated investors to some enormous gains, while it also became the first company listed on the ASX to hit $200 per share.

In fact, the shares traded as high as $220.90 at one point late in December, eclipsing the $35.19 share price it kicked the calendar year off with.

But it’s been a different story so far in 2016. Blackmores’s shares quickly retreated on valuation concerns as well as concerns regarding ongoing demand from China (more on that in a moment), but have since found some form again.

They’ve risen in five of the last six sessions, gaining a total of 9.4% in that time, and are trading at $191.45. Another 4.5% and they’ll be back at that coveted $200 mark.

One-year price chart; Source: ASX

One-year price chart; Source: ASX

First, let’s look at why the shares grew so strongly in the first place. Sales and earnings growth began to pick up the pace towards the end of financial year 2014, and that trend continued (and improved) through 2015.

Sales grew 36% for the 2015 financial year while net profit soared an incredible 83%. Group sales rose another 65% during the latest half-year period and its profit for the period was $48 million, up 160% on the prior corresponding period.

While the company’s Australia division accounted for much of the growth, it is believed that a significant portion of those sales made to Australian customers were ultimately intended for Asian markets. Direct Asian sales also grew strongly, reflecting the region’s insatiable demand for quality food and health products from western countries; this is largely due to the various food-related health scares from home-grown products in recent years.

Expectations that this growth would continue into the future prompted a huge increase in Blackmores’ share price through to December 2015. However, investors soon became cautious — anxious of a potential crackdown on these supposed ‘grey market’ sales. Even more recently, investors were concerned that a new 11.9% tax on e-commerce products sourced internationally would make products such as those sold by Blackmores more expensive to buy, thus denting demand.

Of course, that is a risk. But it’s also possible that the implications for Blackmores, together with other infant formula providers such as Bellamy’s Australia Ltd (ASX: BAL), have been overblown.

To begin with, it is clear that Chinese residents are content with paying more for products they perceive as offering greater quality – they’re already paying significantly more for them than they could otherwise pay for goods produced in China. Meanwhile, investors buying these products in bulk will hardly be impacted by the new laws anyway, which means others could also be inspired to buy in bulk as well.

At more than $191 a share, Blackmores’ shares are not cheap, but if the company can continue to grow sales and earnings at such impressive rates then they still could climb higher over the coming years. As I mentioned, there are risks to such an investment, but it seems investors may be coming to terms with them and buying back into the shares anyway.

The shares may or may not climb above the $200 mark again in the near-term, but investors who currently own the shares could be doing themselves a favour by holding on for the long run.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman owns shares of Bellamy's Australia. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of Bellamy's Australia. 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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