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Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX) Might Be Having Difficulty Using Its Capital Effectively

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If we want to find a stock that could multiply over the long term, what are the underlying trends we should look for? 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. This shows us that it's a compounding machine, able to continually reinvest its earnings back into the business and generate higher returns. So while Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX) has a high ROCE right now, lets see what we can decipher from how returns are changing.

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

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. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for Paychex:

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

0.33 = US$1.4b ÷ (US$9.7b - US$5.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to February 2021).

Therefore, Paychex has an ROCE of 33%. That's a fantastic return and not only that, it outpaces the average of 11% earned by companies in a similar industry.

View our latest analysis for Paychex

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Above you can see how the current ROCE for Paychex compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report for Paychex.

What Can We Tell From Paychex's ROCE Trend?

On the surface, the trend of ROCE at Paychex doesn't inspire confidence. To be more specific, while the ROCE is still high, it's fallen from 55% where it was five years ago. Meanwhile, the business is utilizing more capital but this hasn't moved the needle much in terms of sales in the past 12 months, so this could reflect longer term investments. It may take some time before the company starts to see any change in earnings from these investments.

On a side note, Paychex has done well to pay down its current liabilities to 55% of total assets. That could partly explain why the ROCE has dropped. What's more, this can reduce some aspects of risk to the business because now the company's suppliers or short-term creditors are funding less of its operations. 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. Either way, they're still at a pretty high level, so we'd like to see them fall further if possible.

The Key Takeaway

In summary, Paychex is reinvesting funds back into the business for growth but unfortunately it looks like sales haven't increased much just yet. Investors must think there's better things to come because the stock has knocked it out of the park, delivering a 120% gain to shareholders who have held over the last five years. Ultimately, if the underlying trends persist, we wouldn't hold our breath on it being a multi-bagger going forward.

One more thing to note, we've identified 1 warning sign with Paychex and understanding it should be part of your investment process.

Paychex is not the only stock earning high returns. If you'd like to see more, check out our free list of companies earning high returns on equity with solid fundamentals.

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.