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Unilever plc, ASOS plc And Photo-Me International plc: 3 Bargain Buys?

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Concerns surrounding the Asian economy don’t appear to have hurt Unilever (LSE: ULVR) as much as may have been expected. After all, the consumer goods company is heavily dependent on the emerging world (including a number of Asian economies) for its sales and yet its share price has outperformed the FTSE 100 by over 8% in the last six months.

A key reason for this is the highly appealing long-term potential for Unilever in the emerging world. With over 300m Chinese set to see their wages rising to put them in the middle income bracket over the next 15 years, there’s tremendous scope for Unilever to grow its sales figures in the long run. And with the company’s shares trading on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 20.1, they appear to offer good value for money when compared to a number of rival global consumer goods companies.

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Certainly, Unilever’s P/E ratio may be higher than the FTSE 100’s P/E ratio of around 13, but it has historically been much higher, thereby indicating that there’s scope for an upward rerating.

Furthermore, Unilever continues to offer excellent income prospects. Its shares may yield a rather modest 3.3% at the present time, but dividends are expected to rise by 6.6% in the current year. And with Unilever having a payout ratio of only 66%, there’s scope for further above-inflation rises in the medium-to-long term.

Value for money?

Like Unilever, ASOS (LSE: ASC) has a relatively high valuation. It trades on a P/E ratio of 57.2 and yet is expected to grow its bottom line by only 23% in the current year. This equates to a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 2.5, which indicates poor value for money following the company’s 34% share price rise in the last year.

Of course, ASOS has a new strategy of focusing on its core markets rather than ploughing profits back into an investment in pricing across new markets. This seems to make sense, since there remain major growth opportunities in key markets such as the UK. And with ASOS having a relatively loyal customer base as well as a rising level of brand loyalty, its future as a business appears to be bright. With the UK economy moving from strength-to-strength and consumer confidence on the up, ASOS could be a great investment were it not for its excessively high valuation.

Meanwhile, photo booth operator Photo-Me International (LSE: PHTM) has been given a boost today by an upbeat trading update that indicates full-year profit could be ahead of expectations. That’s because of the introduction of new My Number Cards (with facial photo) for residents in Japan in 2016, with Photo-Me’s sales in the country rising by 90% year-on-year in November and December.

Although there’s no guarantee that such strong sales will continue, Photo-Me states in today’s update that if they do continue over the next four months then profit for the full year will be materially ahead of guidance. Despite this, Photo-Me trades on a P/E ratio of 20.9 and while double-digit growth is forecast for next year, there appear to be better value options on offer elsewhere.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of Unilever. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended ASOS and Unilever. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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