If you're looking for a multi-bagger, there's a few things to keep an eye out for. Firstly, we'll want to see a proven return on capital employed (ROCE) that is increasing, and secondly, an expanding base of capital employed. Put simply, these types of businesses are compounding machines, meaning they are continually reinvesting their earnings at ever-higher rates of return. So when we looked at Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), they do have a high ROCE, but we weren't exactly elated from how returns are trending.
Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?
If you haven't worked with ROCE before, it measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. The formula for this calculation on Apple is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.30 = US$66b ÷ (US$324b - US$105b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2020).
Therefore, Apple has an ROCE of 30%. That's a fantastic return and not only that, it outpaces the average of 6.5% earned by companies in a similar industry.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Apple compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report for Apple.
What Does the ROCE Trend For Apple Tell Us?
Things have been pretty stable at Apple, with its capital employed and returns on that capital staying somewhat the same for the last five years. This tells us the company isn't reinvesting in itself, so it's plausible that it's past the growth phase. Although current returns are high, we'd need more evidence of underlying growth for it to look like a multi-bagger going forward.
The Bottom Line
Although is allocating it's capital efficiently to generate impressive returns, it isn't compounding its base of capital, which is what we'd see from a multi-bagger. Yet to long term shareholders the stock has gifted them an incredible 473% return in the last five years, so the market appears to be rosy about its future. But if the trajectory of these underlying trends continue, we think the likelihood of it being a multi-bagger from here isn't high.
One more thing, we've spotted 1 warning sign facing Apple that you might find interesting.
If you'd like to see other companies earning high returns, check out our free list of companies earning high returns with solid balance sheets here.
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