Associated British Foods (LON:ABF) Could Be Struggling To Allocate Capital

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 12, 2022
LSE:ABF
Source: Shutterstock

There are a few key trends to look for if we want to identify the next multi-bagger. Ideally, a business will show two trends; firstly a growing return on capital employed (ROCE) and secondly, an increasing amount of capital employed. Ultimately, this demonstrates that it's a business that is reinvesting profits at increasing rates of return. In light of that, when we looked at Associated British Foods (LON:ABF) and its ROCE trend, we weren't exactly thrilled.

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. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for Associated British Foods:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

0.064 = UK£875m ÷ (UK£17b - UK£3.3b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).

Therefore, Associated British Foods has an ROCE of 6.4%. In absolute terms, that's a low return and it also under-performs the Food industry average of 11%.

View our latest analysis for Associated British Foods

roce
LSE:ABF Return on Capital Employed February 12th 2022

In the above chart we have measured Associated British Foods' 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 Associated British Foods.

How Are Returns Trending?

On the surface, the trend of ROCE at Associated British Foods doesn't inspire confidence. To be more specific, ROCE has fallen from 12% over the last five years. Meanwhile, the business is utilizing more capital but this hasn't moved the needle much in terms of sales in the past 12 months, so this could reflect longer term investments. It may take some time before the company starts to see any change in earnings from these investments.

Our Take On Associated British Foods' ROCE

In summary, Associated British Foods is reinvesting funds back into the business for growth but unfortunately it looks like sales haven't increased much just yet. And in the last five years, the stock has given away 20% so the market doesn't look too hopeful on these trends strengthening any time soon. In any case, the stock doesn't have these traits of a multi-bagger discussed above, so if that's what you're looking for, we think you'd have more luck elsewhere.

Like most companies, Associated British Foods does come with some risks, and we've found 1 warning sign that you should be aware of.

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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