If you're looking at a mature business that's past the growth phase, what are some of the underlying trends that pop up? 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 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 Arabian Cement (TADAWUL:3010), the trends above didn't look too great.
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. The formula for this calculation on Arabian Cement is:
0.073 = ر.س231m ÷ (ر.س3.4b - ر.س226m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).
Thus, Arabian Cement has an ROCE of 7.3%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Basic Materials industry average of 9.4%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Arabian Cement 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 Arabian Cement's ROCE Trending?
There is reason to be cautious about Arabian Cement, given the returns are trending downwards. To be more specific, the ROCE was 17% 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. Companies that exhibit these attributes tend to not be shrinking, but they can be mature and facing pressure on their margins from competition. If these trends continue, we wouldn't expect Arabian Cement to turn into a multi-bagger.
All in all, the lower returns from the same amount of capital employed aren't exactly signs of a compounding machine. Yet despite these concerning fundamentals, the stock has performed strongly with a 50% return over the last five years, so investors appear very optimistic. In any case, the current underlying trends don't bode well for long term performance so unless they reverse, we'd start looking elsewhere.
One more thing to note, we've identified 1 warning sign with Arabian Cement and understanding it 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.
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.