Which of these Footsie healthcare stars should you buy after today's news?

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Stock market bull and bear
Stock market bull and bear

News of declining earnings has seen private hospital group Mediclinic International (LSE: MDC) fail to keep touch with its FTSE 100 peers in Thursday business, the stock last seen dealing 6% lower on the day.


Mediclinic -- which operates medical facilities across South Africa, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates -- announced that underlying earnings per share dropped 26% during April-September, due to the cost of acquiring the Al Noor hospital group.

This is not the first time Mediclinic's Middle Eastern operations have spooked investors. Indeed, several factors -- changes to medical insurance cover in the region, a large number of doctor vacancies, and delayed facility openings, such as that of the Al Jowhara hospital -- forced the company to scale back its revenues guidance in September.

Despite these problems, I believe that Mediclinic remains an attractive pick for long-term investors. Indeed, the healthcare giant saw revenues gallop 27% higher during the fiscal first half, to £1.28bn, with Al Noor contributing 16% to this sales growth.

These figures underline the growing need for private healthcare in emerging regions, a phenomenon that looks set to continue as disposable income levels grow. And Mediclinic is also performing extremely well in its traditional markets, too, and enjoyed a solid 5% revenues upswing in Switzerland during the half year.

The City certainly expects sales at Mediclinic to keep charging higher, resulting in earnings growth of 17% and 19% in the years to March 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Consequent P/E ratings of 20.1 times and 16.9 times may be slightly expensive from a 'classic' investing perspective -- these readings are ahead of the Footsie forward average of 15 times. However, I believe Mediclinic's white-hot growth prospects warrant this slight premium.

The right medicine?

Medicine maker Hikma Pharmaceuticals (LSE: HIK) has also endured fresh share price losses today, the stock last 3% lower from Wednesday's session.

Disappointing volume growth at its Generics unit has forced Hikma to announce a downward revision to its 2016 revenues target, the company now expecting full-year sales at the division to clock in at $600m versus its previous target of between $640 and $670m. Consequently Hikma now expects group revenues to come in at between $2bn and $2.1bn, down from its prior guidance of $2bn.

Still, Hikma remains bullish on the long-term prospects of its Generics operations, and expects sales here to shoot to $800m in fiscal 2017 on the back of "market share gains of high value products, portfolio rationalisation and pipeline execution."

Of course investment in the pharma sector is always fraught with risk -- such is the nature of drugs development. But I believe the strength of Hikma's bubbly product pipeline, not to mention benefits resulting from recent acquisition activity, make it a potentially-explosive growth selection.

The City certainly expects Hikma to recover from its current troubles, and rebound from a 24% earnings decline in 2016 to print a 35% rise next year. With the P/E rating expected to consequently topple from 19.5 times for this year to 14.4 times, I reckon the drugs giant is worthy of serious attention.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Hikma Pharmaceuticals. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.