If we're looking to avoid a business that is in decline, what are the trends that can warn us ahead of time? More often than not, we'll see a declining return on capital employed (ROCE) and a declining amount of capital employed. This combination can tell you that not only is the company investing less, it's earning less on what it does invest. So after we looked into Genie Energy (NYSE:GNE), the trends above didn't look too great.
What is 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. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for Genie Energy:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.032 = US$2.9m ÷ (US$185m - US$95m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).
So, Genie Energy has an ROCE of 3.2%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Electric Utilities industry average of 4.5%.
While the past is not representative of the future, it can be helpful to know how a company has performed historically, which is why we have this chart above. If you want to delve into the historical earnings, revenue and cash flow of Genie Energy, check out these free graphs here.
What The Trend Of ROCE Can Tell Us
We are a bit anxious about the trends of ROCE at Genie Energy. Unfortunately, returns have declined substantially over the last five years to the 3.2% we see today. What's equally concerning is that the amount of capital deployed in the business has shrunk by 28% over that same period. When you see both ROCE and capital employed diminishing, it can often be a sign of a mature and shrinking business that might be in structural decline. If these underlying trends continue, we wouldn't be too optimistic going forward.
On a side note, Genie Energy's current liabilities have increased over the last five years to 51% 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 Genie Energy's ROCE
In short, lower returns and decreasing amounts capital employed in the business doesn't fill us with confidence. Investors must expect better things on the horizon though because the stock has risen 3.3% in the last five years. Either way, we aren't huge fans of the current trends and so with that we think you might find better investments elsewhere.
One more thing to note, we've identified 2 warning signs with Genie Energy and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
While Genie Energy may not currently earn the highest returns, we've compiled a list of companies that currently earn more than 25% return on equity. Check out this free list here.
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.
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