What financial metrics can indicate to us that a company is maturing or even in decline? Businesses in decline often have two underlying trends, firstly, a declining return on capital employed (ROCE) and a declining base of capital employed. Ultimately this means that the company is earning less per dollar invested and on top of that, it's shrinking its base of capital employed. And from a first read, things don't look too good at ManpowerGroup (NYSE:MAN), so let's see why.
Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)
Just to clarify if you're unsure, ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. To calculate this metric for ManpowerGroup, this is the formula:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.08 = US$371m ÷ (US$9.3b - US$4.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2020).
Thus, ManpowerGroup has an ROCE of 8.0%. In absolute terms, that's a low return and it also under-performs the Professional Services industry average of 10%.
In the above chart we have measured ManpowerGroup's prior ROCE against its prior performance, but the future is arguably more important. If you're interested, you can view the analysts predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.
How Are Returns Trending?
In terms of ManpowerGroup's historical ROCE movements, the trend doesn't inspire confidence. To be more specific, the ROCE was 17% five years ago, but since then it has dropped noticeably. On top of that, it's worth noting that the amount of capital employed within the business has remained relatively steady. This combination can be indicative of a mature business that still has areas to deploy capital, but the returns received aren't as high due potentially to new competition or smaller margins. If these trends continue, we wouldn't expect ManpowerGroup to turn into a multi-bagger.
On a side note, ManpowerGroup's current liabilities are still rather high at 50% of total assets. 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. While it's not necessarily a bad thing, it can be beneficial if this ratio is lower.
The Bottom Line
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. But investors must be expecting an improvement of sorts because over the last five yearsthe stock has delivered a respectable 42% return. Regardless, we don't feel too comfortable with the fundamentals so we'd be steering clear of this stock for now.
On a final note, we've found 5 warning signs for ManpowerGroup that we think you should be aware of.
While ManpowerGroup 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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