What trends should we look for it we want to identify stocks that can multiply in value over the long term? One common approach is to try and find a company with returns on capital employed (ROCE) that are increasing, in conjunction with a growing amount of capital employed. This shows us that it's a compounding machine, able to continually reinvest its earnings back into the business and generate higher returns. In light of that, when we looked at Arcos Dorados Holdings (NYSE:ARCO) and its ROCE trend, we weren't exactly thrilled.
What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?
Just to clarify if you're unsure, ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. The formula for this calculation on Arcos Dorados Holdings is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.10 = US$186m ÷ (US$2.5b - US$636m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2022).
Thus, Arcos Dorados Holdings has an ROCE of 10%. By itself that's a normal return on capital and it's in line with the industry's average returns of 10%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Arcos Dorados Holdings compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. If you're interested, you can view the analysts predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.
How Are Returns Trending?
On the surface, the trend of ROCE at Arcos Dorados Holdings doesn't inspire confidence. To be more specific, ROCE has fallen from 22% over the last five years. Although, given both revenue and the amount of assets employed in the business have increased, it could suggest the company is investing in growth, and the extra capital has led to a short-term reduction in ROCE. If these investments prove successful, this can bode very well for long term stock performance.
On a side note, Arcos Dorados Holdings has done well to pay down its current liabilities to 26% of total assets. That could partly explain why the ROCE has dropped. What's more, this can reduce some aspects of risk to the business because now the company's suppliers or short-term creditors are funding less of its operations. Since the business is basically funding more of its operations with it's own money, you could argue this has made the business less efficient at generating ROCE.
Even though returns on capital have fallen in the short term, we find it promising that revenue and capital employed have both increased for Arcos Dorados Holdings. However, total returns to shareholders over the last five years have been flat, which could indicate these growth trends potentially aren't accounted for yet by investors. So we think it'd be worthwhile to look further into this stock given the trends look encouraging.
Arcos Dorados Holdings does have some risks though, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Arcos Dorados Holdings that you might be interested in.
For those who like to invest in solid companies, check out this free list of companies with solid balance sheets and high returns on equity.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.