Low dollar to aid healthcare

HEALTHCARE companies with big foreign operations are tipped to be the biggest winners from the dumping of the Australian dollar over the past month.

HEALTHCARE companies with big foreign operations are tipped to be the biggest winners from the dumping of the Australian dollar over the past month.

Ailing retailers are unlikely to benefit from the fall, which could add to the pressure on margins in the sector.

With the dollar down by 5 per cent in the past month, despite rising above US98? yesterday, analysts say companies including CSL, Brambles, Amcor and Crown are likely gainers from the weaker currency.

White Funds Management managing director Angus Gluskie said healthcare stocks such as CSL, ResMed and Cochlear were the standout winners from the slump.

"The healthcare sector, which has a cost base in Australia but high overseas sales, is a real beneficiary of this," he said.

UBS analysts this week said the current exchange rate could lift CSL's annual earnings by $31 million, or 3 per cent. The stock has risen slightly this month, compared with a 6.4 per cent drop in the S&P/ASX 200 Index.

Mr Gluskie added that Crown with its Hong Kong casino investments and News Corp were also likely beneficiaries of a weaker dollar.

Other potential winners are companies with significant overseas operations such as Amcor and Brambles which both make more than 30 per cent of their earnings from the US.

But Deutsche Bank equity strategist Tim Baker cautioned that this needed to be seen against the weak outlook for the US, which could undermine gains from the currency.

"The Aussie dollar is falling for exactly the same reason that the ASX 200 and [Wall Street's] S&P 500 are down," Mr Baker said.

Credit Suisse strategist Atul Lele also said that while the fall might deter people from shopping at foreign online stores, retailers would have trouble passing on any increases in the cost of imported goods given consumers' reluctance to spend.

"The retail sector will marginally benefit from fewer people shopping online, but they will also be affected by higher costs, which will negatively impact their margins," Mr Lele said.

According to recent analysis from CommSec, the proportion of earnings that BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto derive from Australian operations is the lowest of the country's top companies.

But Mr Lele said any benefit to miners was outweighed by the larger slump in commodity prices.

This has been reflected in heavy selling of mining stocks, which are down 9.4 per cent over the last month, compared with the 6.4 per cent fall in the S&P/ASX 200.

"At the moment we've got a pretty bad environment for the mining sector," Mr Lele said yesterday.

"The currency has not fallen as much as it should have, whereas commodity prices have fallen significantly."

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