What financial metrics can indicate to us that a company is maturing or even in decline? Typically, we'll see the trend of both return on capital employed (ROCE) declining and this usually coincides with a decreasing amount of capital employed. Ultimately this means that the company is earning less per dollar invested and on top of that, it's shrinking its base of capital employed. And from a first read, things don't look too good at Renault (EPA:RNO), so let's see why.
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. To calculate this metric for Renault, this is the formula:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.034 = €1.5b ÷ (€113b - €68b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).
Therefore, Renault has an ROCE of 3.4%. In absolute terms, that's a low return and it also under-performs the Auto industry average of 9.4%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Renault 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 Renault here for free.
The Trend Of ROCE
There is reason to be cautious about Renault, given the returns are trending downwards. To be more specific, the ROCE was 7.1% five years ago, but since then it has dropped noticeably. And on the capital employed front, the business is utilizing roughly the same amount of capital as it was back then. 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 Renault to turn into a multi-bagger.
On a separate but related note, it's important to know that Renault has a current liabilities to total assets ratio of 60%, which we'd consider pretty high. This effectively means that suppliers (or short-term creditors) are funding a large portion of the business, so just be aware that this can introduce some elements of risk. Ideally we'd like to see this reduce as that would mean fewer obligations bearing risks.
The Bottom Line
In summary, it's unfortunate that Renault is generating lower returns from the same amount of capital. It should come as no surprise then that the stock has fallen 55% over the last five years, so it looks like investors are recognizing these changes. That being the case, unless the underlying trends revert to a more positive trajectory, we'd consider looking elsewhere.
One more thing to note, we've identified 1 warning sign with Renault and understanding this should be part of your investment process.
If you want to search for solid companies with great earnings, check out this free list of companies with good balance sheets and impressive 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.