Returns On Capital Signal Tricky Times Ahead For MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI)

By
Simply Wall St
Published
June 14, 2021
NasdaqGS:MELI
Source: Shutterstock

There are a few key trends to look for if we want to identify the next multi-bagger. 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. However, after briefly looking over the numbers, we don't think MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI) has the makings of a multi-bagger going forward, but let's have a look at why that may be.

What is 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. The formula for this calculation on MercadoLibre is:

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

0.12 = US$248m ÷ (US$5.2b - US$3.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2021).

So, MercadoLibre has an ROCE of 12%. In absolute terms, that's a pretty normal return, and it's somewhat close to the Online Retail industry average of 14%.

View our latest analysis for MercadoLibre

roce
NasdaqGS:MELI Return on Capital Employed June 15th 2021

In the above chart we have measured MercadoLibre'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.

What Can We Tell From MercadoLibre's ROCE Trend?

When we looked at the ROCE trend at MercadoLibre, we didn't gain much confidence. Around five years ago the returns on capital were 21%, but since then they've fallen to 12%. However, given capital employed and revenue have both increased it appears that the business is currently pursuing growth, at the consequence of short term returns. If these investments prove successful, this can bode very well for long term stock performance.

On a side note, MercadoLibre's current liabilities have increased over the last five years to 62% of total assets, effectively distorting the ROCE to some degree. If current liabilities hadn't increased as much as they did, the ROCE could actually be even lower. What this means is that in reality, a rather large portion of the business is being funded by the likes of the company's suppliers or short-term creditors, which can bring some risks of its own.

Our Take On MercadoLibre's ROCE

While returns have fallen for MercadoLibre in recent times, we're encouraged to see that sales are growing and that the business is reinvesting in its operations. And long term investors must be optimistic going forward because the stock has returned a huge 960% to shareholders in the last five years. So while investors seem to be recognizing these promising trends, we would look further into this stock to make sure the other metrics justify the positive view.

On a final note, we've found 1 warning sign for MercadoLibre that we think you should be aware of.

While MercadoLibre 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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