- Telecom Services and Carriers
Capital Allocation Trends At Telefónica (BME:TEF) Aren't Ideal
Ignoring the stock price of a company, what are the underlying trends that tell us a business is past the growth phase? More often than not, we'll see a declining return on capital employed (ROCE) and a declining amount of capital employed. This reveals that the company isn't compounding shareholder wealth because returns are falling and its net asset base is shrinking. So after glancing at the trends within Telefónica (BME:TEF), we weren't too hopeful.
Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)
For those that aren't sure what ROCE is, it measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for Telefónica:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.016 = €1.5b ÷ (€115b - €25b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2022).
So, Telefónica has an ROCE of 1.6%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Telecom industry average of 9.4%.
See our latest analysis for Telefónica
In the above chart we have measured Telefónica's prior ROCE against its prior performance, but the future is arguably more important. If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report for Telefónica.
How Are Returns Trending?
In terms of Telefónica's historical ROCE movements, the trend doesn't inspire confidence. About five years ago, returns on capital were 8.1%, 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 Telefónica to turn into a multi-bagger.
The Key Takeaway
All in all, the lower returns from the same amount of capital employed aren't exactly signs of a compounding machine. Long term shareholders who've owned the stock over the last five years have experienced a 41% depreciation in their investment, so it appears the market might not like these trends either. That being the case, unless the underlying trends revert to a more positive trajectory, we'd consider looking elsewhere.
Telefónica does have some risks, we noticed 5 warning signs (and 2 which can't be ignored) we think you should know about.
While Telefónica isn't earning the highest return, check out this free list of companies that are earning high returns on equity with solid balance sheets.
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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.
Telefónica, S.A., together with its subsidiaries, provides telecommunications services in Europe and Latin America.
Good value second-rate dividend payer.