What financial metrics can indicate to us that a company is maturing or even in decline? 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 indicates to us that the business is not only shrinking the size of its net assets, but its returns are falling as well. In light of that, from a first glance at CECO Environmental (NASDAQ:CECE), we've spotted some signs that it could be struggling, so let's investigate.
Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)
For those who don't know, ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. The formula for this calculation on CECO Environmental is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.059 = US$20m ÷ (US$482m - US$144m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2022).
Therefore, CECO Environmental has an ROCE of 5.9%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Commercial Services industry average of 9.7%.
In the above chart we have measured CECO Environmental's prior ROCE against its prior performance, but the future is arguably more important. 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 CECO Environmental's ROCE Trend?
We are a bit worried about the trend of returns on capital at CECO Environmental. About five years ago, returns on capital were 9.7%, 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 CECO Environmental becoming one if things continue as they have.
The Bottom Line On CECO Environmental's ROCE
All in all, the lower returns from the same amount of capital employed aren't exactly signs of a compounding machine. Investors must expect better things on the horizon though because the stock has risen 38% in the last five years. Regardless, we don't like the trends as they are and if they persist, we think you might find better investments elsewhere.
One more thing, we've spotted 1 warning sign facing CECO Environmental that you might find interesting.
While CECO Environmental 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.
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.
Join A Paid User Research Session
You’ll receive a US$30 Amazon Gift card for 1 hour of your time while helping us build better investing tools for the individual investors like yourself. Sign up here