If you're looking at a mature business that's past the growth phase, what are some of the underlying trends that pop up? A business that's potentially in decline often shows two trends, a return on capital employed (ROCE) that's declining, and a base of capital employed that's also declining. This combination can tell you that not only is the company investing less, it's earning less on what it does invest. And from a first read, things don't look too good at Acadian Timber (TSE:ADN), so let's see why.
What Is 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. The formula for this calculation on Acadian Timber is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.034 = CA$18m ÷ (CA$548m - CA$16m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2022).
Thus, Acadian Timber has an ROCE of 3.4%. In absolute terms, that's a low return and it also under-performs the Forestry industry average of 16%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Acadian Timber compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. If you'd like, you can check out the forecasts from the analysts covering Acadian Timber here for free.
What Does the ROCE Trend For Acadian Timber Tell Us?
There is reason to be cautious about Acadian Timber, given the returns are trending downwards. About five years ago, returns on capital were 4.7%, however they're now substantially lower than that as we saw above. Meanwhile, capital employed in the business has stayed roughly the flat over the period. 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. So because these trends aren't typically conducive to creating a multi-bagger, we wouldn't hold our breath on Acadian Timber becoming one if things continue as they have.
Our Take On Acadian Timber's ROCE
All in all, the lower returns from the same amount of capital employed aren't exactly signs of a compounding machine. Despite the concerning underlying trends, the stock has actually gained 15% over the last five years, so it might be that the investors are expecting the trends to reverse. Either way, we aren't huge fans of the current trends and so with that we think you might find better investments elsewhere.
One final note, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Acadian Timber (including 1 which is a bit unpleasant) .
If you want to search for solid companies with great earnings, check out this free list of companies with good balance sheets and impressive returns on equity.
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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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