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. So after glancing at the trends within Flexsteel Industries (NASDAQ:FLXS), we weren't too hopeful.
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. To calculate this metric for Flexsteel Industries, this is the formula:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.069 = US$13m ÷ (US$252m - US$60m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2021).
So, Flexsteel Industries has an ROCE of 6.9%. In absolute terms, that's a low return and it also under-performs the Consumer Durables industry average of 14%.
While the past is not representative of the future, it can be helpful to know how a company has performed historically, which is why we have this chart above. If you want to delve into the historical earnings, revenue and cash flow of Flexsteel Industries, check out these free graphs here.
The Trend Of ROCE
In terms of Flexsteel Industries' historical ROCE movements, the trend doesn't inspire confidence. Unfortunately the returns on capital have diminished from the 17% that they were earning five years ago. On top of that, it's worth noting that the amount of capital employed within the business has remained relatively steady. Companies that exhibit these attributes tend to not be shrinking, but they can be mature and facing pressure on their margins from competition. If these trends continue, we wouldn't expect Flexsteel Industries to turn into a multi-bagger.
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. In spite of that, the stock has delivered a 35% return to shareholders who held over the last five years. Either way, we aren't huge fans of the current trends and so with that we think you might find better investments elsewhere.
On a final note, we found 3 warning signs for Flexsteel Industries (1 is potentially serious) 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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