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Greif (NYSE:GEF) Might Be Having Difficulty Using Its Capital Effectively

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·3 min read
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If you're not sure where to start when looking for the next multi-bagger, there are a few key trends you should keep an eye out for. Typically, we'll want to notice a trend of growing return on capital employed (ROCE) and alongside that, an expanding base of capital employed. This shows us that it's a compounding machine, able to continually reinvest its earnings back into the business and generate higher returns. Although, when we looked at Greif (NYSE:GEF), it didn't seem to tick all of these boxes.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

Just to clarify if you're unsure, ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. The formula for this calculation on Greif is:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

0.085 = US$388m ÷ (US$5.6b - US$991m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to January 2021).

Therefore, Greif has an ROCE of 8.5%. In absolute terms, that's a low return and it also under-performs the Packaging industry average of 11%.

View our latest analysis for Greif

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In the above chart we have measured Greif's prior ROCE against its prior performance, but the future is arguably more important. If you'd like, you can check out the forecasts from the analysts covering Greif here for free.

So How Is Greif's ROCE Trending?

On the surface, the trend of ROCE at Greif doesn't inspire confidence. Over the last five years, returns on capital have decreased to 8.5% from 11% five years ago. However it looks like Greif might be reinvesting for long term growth because while capital employed has increased, the company's sales haven't changed much in the last 12 months. 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.

What We Can Learn From Greif's ROCE

To conclude, we've found that Greif is reinvesting in the business, but returns have been falling. Investors must think there's better things to come because the stock has knocked it out of the park, delivering a 106% gain to shareholders who have held over the last five years. However, unless these underlying trends turn more positive, we wouldn't get our hopes up too high.

One more thing: We've identified 4 warning signs with Greif (at least 1 which doesn't sit too well with us) , and understanding them would certainly be useful.

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.

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.