When it comes to investing, there are some useful financial metrics that can warn us when a business is potentially in trouble. When we see a declining return on capital employed (ROCE) in conjunction with a declining base of capital employed, that's often how a mature business shows signs of aging. This combination can tell you that not only is the company investing less, it's earning less on what it does invest. Having said that, after a brief look, CSR (ASX:CSR) we aren't filled with optimism, but let's investigate further.
Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?
For those who don't know, ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. The formula for this calculation on CSR is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.12 = AU$212m ÷ (AU$2.4b - AU$748m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2022).
Thus, CSR has an ROCE of 12%. On its own, that's a standard return, however it's much better than the 8.0% generated by the Basic Materials industry.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for CSR compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. If you'd like, you can check out the forecasts from the analysts covering CSR here for free.
What Does the ROCE Trend For CSR Tell Us?
In terms of CSR's historical ROCE movements, the trend doesn't inspire confidence. About five years ago, returns on capital were 17%, however they're now substantially lower than that as we saw above. Meanwhile, capital employed in the business has stayed roughly the flat over the period. Since returns are falling and the business has the same amount of assets employed, this can suggest it's a mature business that hasn't had much growth in the last five years. If these trends continue, we wouldn't expect CSR to turn into a multi-bagger.
The Bottom Line On CSR's ROCE
In the end, the trend of lower returns on the same amount of capital isn't typically an indication that we're looking at a growth stock. In spite of that, the stock has delivered a 32% return to shareholders who held over the last five years. Regardless, we don't like the trends as they are and if they persist, we think you might find better investments elsewhere.
One final note, you should learn about the 4 warning signs we've spotted with CSR (including 1 which doesn't sit too well with us) .
While CSR may not currently earn the highest returns, we've compiled a list of companies that currently earn more than 25% return on equity. Check out this free list here.
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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.
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