Ignoring the stock price of a company, what are the underlying trends that tell us a business is past the growth phase? Typically, we'll see the trend of both return on capital employed (ROCE) declining and this usually coincides with a decreasing amount of capital employed. This indicates to us that the business is not only shrinking the size of its net assets, but its returns are falling as well. So after we looked into Synectics (LON:SNX), the trends above didn't look too great.
Understanding 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. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for Synectics:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.011 = UK£422k ÷ (UK£54m - UK£15m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to May 2022).
Therefore, Synectics has an ROCE of 1.1%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Electronic industry average of 11%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Synectics 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 The Trend Of ROCE Can Tell Us
There is reason to be cautious about Synectics, given the returns are trending downwards. About five years ago, returns on capital were 9.4%, 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. Companies that exhibit these attributes tend to not be shrinking, but they can be mature and facing pressure on their margins from competition. So because these trends aren't typically conducive to creating a multi-bagger, we wouldn't hold our breath on Synectics becoming one if things continue as they have.
On a related note, Synectics has decreased its current liabilities to 28% of total assets. That could partly explain why the ROCE has dropped. Effectively this means their suppliers or short-term creditors are funding less of the business, which reduces some elements of risk. Since the business is basically funding more of its operations with it's own money, you could argue this has made the business less efficient at generating ROCE.
The Key Takeaway
In the end, the trend of lower returns on the same amount of capital isn't typically an indication that we're looking at a growth stock. It should come as no surprise then that the stock has fallen 52% over the last five years, so it looks like investors are recognizing these changes. With underlying trends that aren't great in these areas, we'd consider looking elsewhere.
On a final note, we've found 2 warning signs for Synectics that we think you should be aware of.
While Synectics isn't earning the highest return, check out this free list of companies that are earning high returns on equity with solid balance sheets.
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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