What trends should we look for it we want to identify stocks that can multiply in value over the long term? 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. Although, when we looked at Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), it didn't seem to tick all of these boxes.
What Is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?
If you haven't worked with ROCE before, it measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. To calculate this metric for Duke Energy, this is the formula:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.041 = US$6.7b ÷ (US$179b - US$16b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2023).
Thus, Duke Energy has an ROCE of 4.1%. In absolute terms, that's a low return but it's around the Electric Utilities industry average of 4.5%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Duke Energy compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. 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 Duke Energy's ROCE Trend?
There are better returns on capital out there than what we're seeing at Duke Energy. Over the past five years, ROCE has remained relatively flat at around 4.1% and the business has deployed 30% more capital into its operations. Given the company has increased the amount of capital employed, it appears the investments that have been made simply don't provide a high return on capital.
The Key Takeaway
As we've seen above, Duke Energy's returns on capital haven't increased but it is reinvesting in the business. Although the market must be expecting these trends to improve because the stock has gained 62% over the last five years. Ultimately, if the underlying trends persist, we wouldn't hold our breath on it being a multi-bagger going forward.
If you'd like to know more about Duke Energy, we've spotted 2 warning signs, and 1 of them makes us a bit uncomfortable.
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.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
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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