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How the right kind of healthcare stock can boost your portfolio

Written by David Thornton, originally published on

Livewire Marketson 14 February, 2022
  6 min read

In this article


The healthcare sector has dominated the news cycle thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But while most everyone have the big drug conglomerates such as Pfizer etched in their minds, Intermede CEO Barry Dargan steers clear of them.

"We tend not to own big drug companies... because they have some drugs that do well and some that not doing so well, and they get picked off by generics."

Intermede instead opt for companies with more focused, niche areas of expertise.

Watch or read below to find out more about some of these niche healthcare stocks. Dargan also gives us his two cents on a sector investors should think twice about buying into, and why company cashflows are so important.


You can watch the video below or read an edited transcript. This interview took place on 14th February 2022.


  • What do you like about the healthcare sector?

    Barry Dargan
    : We own quite a lot of differentiated, innovative growth businesses within the healthcare space. And I would say also we're not as overweight as we were because some of these companies have done incredibly well and have met price target and we've actually sold some of these companies because they've just gotten too expensive for us.

    So our overweight now is not as much as it was. But the sort of companies that we own are things like Danaher in the biologic space. So these are the companies that are coming up with the new types of drug discovery and production of these drugs. They enable drug companies to put these new drugs into production.

    Companies like West, which is the global leader in manufacturing syringe plungers, which it is one of those things that it doesn't cost very much, but it's a critical element to prefilled syringe drugs and syringes because if a drug gets contaminated with anything that's in the plunger, the whole thing gets ruined. And so it's actually a fantastic long term growth company, which we own. And we own a major contact lens manufacturer called Cooper, which has done extremely well. And maybe one other Zoetis, which is the leading animal health drug manufacturer.

    So we are in certain niches. We tend not to own big drug companies as such because they tend to be conglomerates. They have some drugs doing well, some not doing so well. And of course they also get picked off by generics. And so that we don't see them as particularly great business whereas the sort of ones we own, as I say, are quite differentiated and long-term growth situation.

    So we still have quite a decent position in healthcare. We're not as overweight as we were. But we still think it is a good area to be. There's a lot of innovation in that sector. And we want to be there.

    Will retailers shut their wallets this year?

    The move to online led by company like Amazon has really been quite detrimental to the physical retail sector. And if you think about consumer discretionary, it's dominated by that space, by retailers. And so we've not wanted to be in that area because we can see it being heavily disrupted.

    However, we like the online space. eCommerce is an area that we are exposed to. Obviously Amazon is the big player there and we have exposure there. But also a differentiated player like LVMH, which is one of the globally dominant luxury goods manufacturers, dominates, has its own brand that's a longstanding brand, been around for over a 100 years. It's loved by women everywhere. These leather bags sold at very high margins, I might add. Very popular, particularly in Asia and some other emerging markets. But they also dominate the champagne region. They have by value about 80% of the output of all champagne that comes from LVMH. So it has a great franchise.

    So, we have exposure there. But we're underweight simply because we're not in the retail space so much.

    What do healthy cashflows look like?

    : The sort of companies we own are going to be companies that require very little capital to grow their business. More like the software style businesses. In other words, they don't require having to build big plants or create mines or whatever it is. Some people get together, they come up with some great innovative, new ideas and they're able to sell these ideas through the internet or whatever it is.

    Those kind of businesses do tend to be extremely cash generative. And so this is something we look for in our businesses. One of the things we look for in our valuation metrics is a free cash flow yield on a perspective unlevered basis within our short forecast period of around 4% or so, which is a pretty healthy cash flow yield. And it equates quite nicely to the free cash yield on the S and P for instance, 500, which currently is around just under 4%.

    So we think we are owning the best elite businesses in the top 5% globally, but at a free cash yield of not that different to the market average.

Important information

The information in this communication is provided by Barry Dargan, an authorised representative of MLC Asset Management Pty Limited ACN 106 427 472, AFSL 308953 (‘MLCAM’). MLCAM is the distributor for units in the Intermede Global Equities Fund (‘Fund’) issued by responsible entity, Antares Capital Partners Ltd ABN 85 066 081 114, AFSL 234483 (‘ACP’). Barry is not the holder of an Australian Financial Services (‘AFS’) licence, or an employee of MLCAM or in partnership or joint venture with MLCAM. This communication is not an offer, invitation or recommendation to buy, hold or dispose, any assets, undertakings, securities or any other financial products in any jurisdiction or to otherwise participate in any investment opportunity. The communication is of a general nature only and is not advice, it has been prepared without taking into account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any person.  Before making an investment decision, you should consider your objectives, financial situation and needs. Before making any decision about the Fund, you should consider its Product Disclosure Statement (‘PDS’) which is available from or by calling 1300 738 355. Opinions are subject to change and the accuracy of the information in this communication is not guaranteed.  Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Whilst formulated on reasonable basis, any projection in this communication may be affected by inaccurate assumptions or may not take into account known or unknown risks and uncertainties.  The actual results achieved may differ materially from the projection.