Ignoring the stock price of a company, what are the underlying trends that tell us a business is past the growth phase? A business that's potentially in decline often shows two trends, a return on capital employed (ROCE) that's declining, and a base of capital employed that's also declining. This indicates to us that the business is not only shrinking the size of its net assets, but its returns are falling as well. So after glancing at the trends within Nobia (STO:NOBI), we weren't too hopeful.
Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)
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 Nobia:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.15 = kr1.0b ÷ (kr10b - kr3.6b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).
Thus, Nobia has an ROCE of 15%. That's a pretty standard return and it's in line with the industry average of 15%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Nobia 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.
What The Trend Of ROCE Can Tell Us
There is reason to be cautious about Nobia, given the returns are trending downwards. To be more specific, the ROCE was 20% five years ago, but since then it has dropped noticeably. Meanwhile, capital employed in the business has stayed roughly the flat over the period. 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 Nobia becoming one if things continue as they have.
The Key Takeaway
All in all, the lower returns from the same amount of capital employed aren't exactly signs of a compounding machine. It should come as no surprise then that the stock has fallen 42% over the last five years, so it looks like investors are recognizing these changes. That being the case, unless the underlying trends revert to a more positive trajectory, we'd consider looking elsewhere.
On a separate note, we've found 2 warning signs for Nobia you'll probably want to know about.
While Nobia isn't earning the highest return, check out this free list of companies that are earning high returns on equity with solid balance sheets.
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.