Should You Buy Reckitt Benckiser Today?


LONDON -- I believe that shares in Reckitt Benckiser are vastly overpriced and are overdue for a weighty correction. The stock has risen 19% since the turn of the year, and currently trades at a 35% premium to Canaccord Genuity's 3,425 pence target price.

The firm is a giant in the household cleaning product and non-prescription health-care space and whose global brands include Dettol, Clearasil, Nurofen, and Durex, among others. But in my opinion, its loss of exclusivity on its Suboxone drug -- which is used to combat narcotics addiction -- could harm revenues moving forward and sour investor appetite for the company.

Rivals gear up for assault
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted Reckitt Benckiser's patent on the anti-addiction product, a move that will herald the entry of cheaper, generic rivals to the Suboxone brand and harm sales over the medium to long term. Suboxone tablet sales in the U.S. represented around 5% of the firm's total revenues last year, while film made up closer to 10% of group turnover.

Indeed, BioDelivery Sciences International announced last month that it plans to file an NDA with the FDA for its Bunavail film by July, which is considered a massive threat to Suboxone moving forward. It reckons that the new film could grab between 25% and 35% of the branded market, and plans to launch the product next year.

Earnings pressure set to materialize
Broker Liberum Capital expects earnings per share (EPS) to nudge 1% lower in 2013 to 262 pence, before the effect of falling Suboxone revenues drive EPS 4% lower to 252 pence. The company currently trades on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 17.7 and 18.5 for this year and next, trading at a premium to a forward earnings multiple of 14.5 for the wider household goods and home construction sector.

Reckitt Benckiser has steadily built the dividend in recent years -- 2012's 134 pence shareholder payout was up 7% from the previous year -- but yields are expected to remain around the 3.3% FTSE 100 average over the medium term. A figure of 3.1% and 3.3% are expected by Liberum's analysts in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

These prospective payments provide coverage just below the safety watermark of two times for these years, although I believe that the effect of falling earnings could cast doubt on the progress of its dividend policy moving forward.

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Royston Wild does not own shares of Reckitt Benckiser. The Motley Fool recommends Reckitt Benckiser. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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.

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