If you're looking at a mature business that's past the growth phase, what are some of the underlying trends that pop up? Businesses in decline often have two underlying trends, firstly, a declining return on capital employed (ROCE) and a declining base of capital employed. This indicates the company is producing less profit from its investments and its total assets are decreasing. On that note, looking into Matthews International (NASDAQ:MATW), we weren't too upbeat about how things were going.
What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?
For those that aren't sure what ROCE is, it measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. The formula for this calculation on Matthews International is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.021 = US$36m ÷ (US$2.1b - US$341m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2021).
Therefore, Matthews International has an ROCE of 2.1%. In absolute terms, that's a low return and it also under-performs the Commercial Services industry average of 8.1%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Matthews International 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 Matthews International's ROCE Trending?
We are a bit worried about the trend of returns on capital at Matthews International. To be more specific, the ROCE was 6.6% 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 Matthews International becoming one if things continue as they have.
What We Can Learn From Matthews International's ROCE
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. It should come as no surprise then that the stock has fallen 48% over the last five years, so it looks like investors are recognizing these changes. Unless there is a shift to a more positive trajectory in these metrics, we would look elsewhere.
If you want to know some of the risks facing Matthews International we've found 2 warning signs (1 shouldn't be ignored!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
While Matthews International 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. 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.