There was an infant formula shortage in November 2017. Maybe people were stealing them? Pic: Christopher Pearce

Five people have been arrested by Australian police for their role in a $1 million infant formula syndicate.

The syndicate allegedly oversaw the coordinated stealing of baby formula from store shelves around Sydney and then selling it on the black market overseas, Business Insider reports.

It came after a nearly 12-month investigation that began when retailers tipped off police that people were stealing baby formula and vitamins in Sydney stores. Some 4,000 tins of infant formula have been seized during the investigation.

At least these thieves were making money — for a while — because ASX investors of infant formula stocks sure aren’t.

Stockhead analysis of the 15 or so infant formula stocks on the ASX shows that the sub-sector is down about 18 per cent in the last six months.

Here’s a table of the ASX stocks with exposure to infant formula and their share price returns since July 2018:

ASX codeCompanyToday's PriceSix month returnsMarket cap
HRL HRL HOLDINGS LTD0.087-0.52 $43.9m
LON LONGTABLE GROUP LTD0.33-0.51 $40.5m
BXN BIOXYNE LTD0.027-0.4 $17.3m
BUB BUBS AUSTRALIA LTD0.43-0.4 $194.2m
BAL BELLAMY'S AUSTRALIA LTD7.57-0.37 $854.7m
BFC BESTON GLOBAL FOOD CO LTD0.14-0.28 $62.1m
AHF AUSTRALIAN DAIRY NUTRITIONAL0.125-0.24 $33.4m
CLV CLOVER CORP LTD1.435-0.16 $229.6m
AU8 AUMAKE INTERNATIONAL LTD0.215-0.06 $61.1m
SM1 SYNLAIT MILK LTD9.5-0.04 $1.7b
WHA WATTLE HEALTH AUSTRALIA LTD1.0350 $199.4m
JAT JATENERGY LTD0.0870.15 $71.6m
KTD KEYTONE DAIRY CORP LTD0.4450.16 $66.0m
A2M A2 MILK CO LTD11.740.21 $8.6b
LGO LONGREACH OIL LTD0.008n/a $8.5m
TOTALTOTAL/AVERAGE$10.52-0.18$12.2b

Bellwether stock A2 Milk (ASX:A2M) has enjoyed a 21 per cent increase in its share price since July, rising to $11.74 after lunch on Monday.

But fellow big names Bellamy’s (ASX:BAL) and Synlait Milk (ASX:SM1) are down 37 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.

Keytone Dairy (ASX:KTD) and Jatenergy (ASX:JAT) are the only other stocks smiling in the past six months, up 15 per cent and 16 per centc respectively.

It hasn’t been a great start to the year for the baby bottle crew. In mid-Jan, only six stocks were ticking upwards since November.

It’s a far cry from the highs of July 2018, when stocks were averaging 170 per cent one-year returns.