When we're researching a company, it's sometimes hard to find the warning signs, but there are some financial metrics that can help spot trouble early. When we see a declining return on capital employed (ROCE) in conjunction with a declining base of capital employed, that's often how a mature business shows signs of aging. This combination can tell you that not only is the company investing less, it's earning less on what it does invest. And from a first read, things don't look too good at Ju Teng International Holdings (HKG:3336), so let's see why.
What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?
If you haven't worked with ROCE before, it measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for Ju Teng International Holdings:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.059 = HK$574m ÷ (HK$16b - HK$6.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2020).
Therefore, Ju Teng International Holdings has an ROCE of 5.9%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Electronic industry average of 8.1%.
In the above chart we have measured Ju Teng International Holdings' prior ROCE against its prior performance, but the future is arguably more important. If you'd like, you can check out the forecasts from the analysts covering Ju Teng International Holdings here for free.
What The Trend Of ROCE Can Tell Us
We are a bit worried about the trend of returns on capital at Ju Teng International Holdings. About five years ago, returns on capital were 11%, 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. Companies that exhibit these attributes tend to not be shrinking, but they can be mature and facing pressure on their margins from competition. So because these trends aren't typically conducive to creating a multi-bagger, we wouldn't hold our breath on Ju Teng International Holdings becoming one if things continue as they have.
On a separate but related note, it's important to know that Ju Teng International Holdings has a current liabilities to total assets ratio of 41%, which we'd consider pretty high. 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. Ideally we'd like to see this reduce as that would mean fewer obligations bearing risks.
In the end, the trend of lower returns on the same amount of capital isn't typically an indication that we're looking at a growth stock. Investors haven't taken kindly to these developments, since the stock has declined 23% 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 found 2 warning signs for Ju Teng International Holdings (1 can't be ignored) you should be aware of.
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