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What trends should we look for it we want to identify stocks that can multiply in value over the long term? In a perfect world, we'd like to see a company investing more capital into its business and ideally the returns earned from that capital are also increasing. If you see this, it typically means it's a company with a great business model and plenty of profitable reinvestment opportunities. In light of that, when we looked at El Pollo Loco Holdings (NASDAQ:LOCO) and its ROCE trend, we weren't exactly thrilled.
What is 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. To calculate this metric for El Pollo Loco Holdings, this is the formula:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.073 = US$40m ÷ (US$622m - US$70m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2020).
So, El Pollo Loco Holdings has an ROCE of 7.3%. On its own that's a low return, but compared to the average of 3.7% generated by the Hospitality industry, it's much better.
In the above chart we have measured El Pollo Loco Holdings' 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 Does the ROCE Trend For El Pollo Loco Holdings Tell Us?
In terms of El Pollo Loco Holdings' historical ROCE movements, the trend isn't fantastic. To be more specific, ROCE has fallen from 13% over the last five years. On the other hand, the company has been employing more capital without a corresponding improvement in sales in the last year, which could suggest these investments are longer term plays. It's worth keeping an eye on the company's earnings from here on to see if these investments do end up contributing to the bottom line.
The Key Takeaway
To conclude, we've found that El Pollo Loco Holdings is reinvesting in the business, but returns have been falling. Although the market must be expecting these trends to improve because the stock has gained 41% over the last five years. However, unless these underlying trends turn more positive, we wouldn't get our hopes up too high.
Like most companies, El Pollo Loco Holdings does come with some risks, and we've found 2 warning signs that you should be aware of.
For those who like to invest in solid companies, check out this free list of companies with solid balance sheets and high returns on equity.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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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