We're Watching These Trends At Barrett Business Services (NASDAQ:BBSI)

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 10, 2020

Finding a business that has the potential to grow substantially is not easy, but it is possible if we look at a few key financial metrics. Ideally, a business will show two trends; firstly a growing return on capital employed (ROCE) and secondly, an increasing amount of capital employed. This shows us that it's a compounding machine, able to continually reinvest its earnings back into the business and generate higher returns. Having said that, from a first glance at Barrett Business Services (NASDAQ:BBSI) we aren't jumping out of our chairs at how returns are trending, but let's have a deeper look.

Understanding 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. To calculate this metric for Barrett Business Services, this is the formula:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

0.084 = US$40m ÷ (US$823m - US$346m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2020).

Thus, Barrett Business Services has an ROCE of 8.4%. On its own, that's a low figure but it's around the 9.4% average generated by the Professional Services industry.

View our latest analysis for Barrett Business Services

NasdaqGS:BBSI Return on Capital Employed December 10th 2020

Above you can see how the current ROCE for Barrett Business Services 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

When we looked at the ROCE trend at Barrett Business Services, we didn't gain much confidence. To be more specific, ROCE has fallen from 16% over the last five years. However it looks like Barrett Business Services might be reinvesting for long term growth because while capital employed has increased, the company's sales haven't changed much in the last 12 months. It may take some time before the company starts to see any change in earnings from these investments.

On a side note, Barrett Business Services has done well to pay down its current liabilities to 42% of total assets. That could partly explain why the ROCE has dropped. What's more, this can reduce some aspects of risk to the business because now the company's suppliers or short-term creditors are funding less of its operations. Since the business is basically funding more of its operations with it's own money, you could argue this has made the business less efficient at generating ROCE. Keep in mind 42% is still pretty high, so those risks are still somewhat prevalent.

The Bottom Line

To conclude, we've found that Barrett Business Services is reinvesting in the business, but returns have been falling. Although the market must be expecting these trends to improve because the stock has gained 75% over the last five years. Ultimately, if the underlying trends persist, we wouldn't hold our breath on it being a multi-bagger going forward.

Barrett Business Services does have some risks, we noticed 4 warning signs (and 1 which shouldn't be ignored) we think you should know about.

While Barrett Business Services isn't earning the highest return, check out this free list of companies that are earning high returns on equity with solid balance sheets.

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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
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