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 reveals that the company isn't compounding shareholder wealth because returns are falling and its net asset base is shrinking. On that note, looking into AgroFresh Solutions (NASDAQ:AGFS), we weren't too upbeat about how things were going.
Understanding 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. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for AgroFresh Solutions:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.032 = US$24m ÷ (US$778m - US$51m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2020).
Thus, AgroFresh Solutions has an ROCE of 3.2%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Chemicals industry average of 8.1%.
In the above chart we have measured AgroFresh Solutions' 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.
What The Trend Of ROCE Can Tell Us
We aren't inspired by the trend, given ROCE has reduced by 47% over the last five years and AgroFresh Solutions is applying -30% less capital in the business, even after the capital raising they conducted (prior to their latest reported figures).
The Bottom Line
In summary, it's unfortunate that AgroFresh Solutions is shrinking its capital base and also generating lower returns. Investors haven't taken kindly to these developments, since the stock has declined 61% from where it was five years ago. That being the case, unless the underlying trends revert to a more positive trajectory, we'd consider looking elsewhere.
On a final note, we've found 2 warning signs for AgroFresh Solutions that we think you should be aware of.
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