When researching a stock for investment, what can tell us that the company is 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. This indicates to us that the business is not only shrinking the size of its net assets, but its returns are falling as well. In light of that, from a first glance at SINOPEC Engineering (Group) (HKG:2386), we've spotted some signs that it could be struggling, so let's investigate.
Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?
Just to clarify if you're unsure, ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. The formula for this calculation on SINOPEC Engineering (Group) is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.074 = CN¥2.3b ÷ (CN¥72b - CN¥41b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).
Thus, SINOPEC Engineering (Group) has an ROCE of 7.4%. In absolute terms, that's a low return but it's around the Construction industry average of 8.8%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for SINOPEC Engineering (Group) 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.
The Trend Of ROCE
In terms of SINOPEC Engineering (Group)'s historical ROCE movements, the trend doesn't inspire confidence. About five years ago, returns on capital were 9.4%, however they're now substantially lower than that as we saw above. On top of that, it's worth noting that the amount of capital employed within the business has remained relatively steady. 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. So because these trends aren't typically conducive to creating a multi-bagger, we wouldn't hold our breath on SINOPEC Engineering (Group) becoming one if things continue as they have.
Another thing to note, SINOPEC Engineering (Group) has a high ratio of current liabilities to total assets of 57%. This can bring about some risks because the company is basically operating with a rather large reliance on its suppliers or other sorts of short-term creditors. While it's not necessarily a bad thing, it can be beneficial if this ratio is lower.
The Bottom Line On SINOPEC Engineering (Group)'s ROCE
In summary, it's unfortunate that SINOPEC Engineering (Group) is generating lower returns from the same amount of capital. Investors haven't taken kindly to these developments, since the stock has declined 48% from where it was five years ago. With underlying trends that aren't great in these areas, we'd consider looking elsewhere.
If you want to continue researching SINOPEC Engineering (Group), you might be interested to know about the 1 warning sign that our analysis has discovered.
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.
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.