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 combination can tell you that not only is the company investing less, it's earning less on what it does invest. So after we looked into CK Hutchison Holdings (HKG:1), the trends above didn't look too great.
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. The formula for this calculation on CK Hutchison Holdings is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.033 = HK$36b ÷ (HK$1.3t - HK$194b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).
Thus, CK Hutchison Holdings has an ROCE of 3.3%. Even though it's in line with the industry average of 3.5%, it's still a low return by itself.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for CK Hutchison 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.
So How Is CK Hutchison Holdings' ROCE Trending?
In terms of CK Hutchison Holdings' historical ROCE movements, the trend doesn't inspire confidence. Unfortunately the returns on capital have diminished from the 4.3% that they were earning five years ago. Meanwhile, capital employed in the business has stayed roughly the flat over the period. This combination can be indicative of a mature business that still has areas to deploy capital, but the returns received aren't as high due potentially to new competition or smaller margins. If these trends continue, we wouldn't expect CK Hutchison Holdings to turn into a multi-bagger.
The Bottom Line
In summary, it's unfortunate that CK Hutchison Holdings is generating lower returns from the same amount of capital. Investors haven't taken kindly to these developments, since the stock has declined 27% from where it was five years ago. That being the case, unless the underlying trends revert to a more positive trajectory, we'd consider looking elsewhere.
On a final note, we've found 2 warning signs for CK Hutchison Holdings that we think you should be aware of.
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.