Why you should take another look at shares of Blackmores Limited

Shares of Blackmores Limited (ASX: BKL) have had a tough run so far in 2016. Since they hit a high of more than $220 in December last year, the shares have retreated 28% to roughly $159, making them one of the worst performers from the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) during that time.

I’ll start by noting that the shares are still not cheap, even despite that sharp pullback. The $2.7 billion market cap company generated earnings per share of almost $2.71 cents in financial year 2015 (FY15) with analysts forecasting EPS of $5.92 in FY16 and $7.15 in FY17, according to Yahoo! Finance. Assuming the company achieves that target, its shares would trade on a price-earnings ratio of 27x FY16 earnings, and 22x FY17 earnings.

Still, when you consider Blackmores’ growth potential – particularly in China – its shares are at least worth a closer look at today’s price level.

Blackmores begun life in the 1930s and listed on the securities exchange in May 1985. It has deep roots in the Asian market – which is extremely important, given the cultural differences in China and the knowledge of the region that is required to run a successful business. And, much like Bellamy’s Australia Ltd (ASX: BAL) and a2 Milk Company Ltd (Australia) (ASX: A2M), Blackmores expects much of its growth to come from that region in the future.

While Blackmores will likely benefit from an increase in births (thanks to the lifting of China’s controversial one-child policy), it is also set to benefit from the region’s ageing population.

It recently shared this chart showing the forecast for the overall dependency ratio in China. In what is seen to be one of the most health-conscious populations in the world, I suspect this will likely result in heightened demand for some of Blackmores’ key products, such as vitamins and nutritional supplements.

Source: Blackmores investor presentation

Source: PwC; Blackmores

Aside from a potential valuation dilemma, one of the primary factors that has weighed on the share prices of Blackmores, Bellamy’s and a2 Milk so far in 2016 is regulatory concerns. Indeed, China is making it increasingly difficult to sell and expand into the market, which many fear will impact the growth prospects of these three businesses.

The fact is, the new regulations being introduced will have an impact on a number of food and health businesses wanting to expand into the country, but these three businesses appear well-placed to adjust and cope. As highlighted above, Blackmores has a long history in the region and has established strong relationships within the country, which should hold it in good stead.

In fact, the stricter policies being set in place in the region could even aid Blackmores in the long-run by keeping some smaller foreign players out of the market.

Indeed, an investment in Blackmores isn’t without its risks, and a pullback in sales or earnings could see shares falter – perhaps significantly. But at $159 a share, I do think it’s worth a closer look by investors who are willing to look past any short-term headwinds and focus on the distant horizon instead.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman owns shares of Bellamy's Australia. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of A2 Milk and 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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