Is Cochlear Limited a buy at this share price?

Credit: rudsbp1

Despite there being no news out of the company today, the shares of Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH) have drifted lower by as much as 4% to $129.62.

With the shares of the implantable hearing solutions specialist now down by almost 8% this month, is it time to invest in the company?

Although they have dropped down a fair bit, I would still suggest investors hold off investing for now. At 35x estimated FY 2017 earnings I’d prefer to see them drop further before making an investment.

In FY 2016 Cochlear delivered a 23% increase in revenue to $1.2 billion and a 30% increase in net profit after tax to $189 million. This impressive result has no doubt played a major role in driving its share price higher by as much as 36% year to date.

But for the year ahead management has only forecast net profit growth in the region of 10% to 20% on FY 2016’s result. At 35x forward earnings the valuation is starting to look a little toppy in my eyes.

Whilst management does have a habit of under-promising and over-delivering, I would suggest at least waiting until its half year results to see how FY 2017 is panning out.

When shares trade on high multiples they run the risk of making steep declines should earnings growth fail to impress the market.

A prime example would be Healthscope Ltd (ASX: HSO). Its share price has tumbled by a massive 23% since it advised last week that its hospitals were having a weak first quarter.

Prior to the announcement Healthscope’s shares were trading at around 27x full year earnings. Following the decline they are now changing hands at just 20x earnings.

Cochlear is undoubtedly a fantastic company, but at the current price I just cannot justify starting an investment in it. Instead investors might want to look at the more reasonably priced ResMed Inc. (CHESS) (ASX: RMD).

Not only are its shares changing hands at just 20x estimated FY 2017 earnings, but I believe it has solid long-term growth prospects that make this a more than fair price to pay.

Alternatively, these three growth shares could be even better investments right now. Are they in your portfolio yet?

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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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