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There Are Reasons To Feel Uneasy About Heartland Express' (NASDAQ:HTLD) Returns On Capital

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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? One common approach is to try and find a company with returns on capital employed (ROCE) that are increasing, in conjunction with a growing amount of capital employed. Ultimately, this demonstrates that it's a business that is reinvesting profits at increasing rates of return. Although, when we looked at Heartland Express (NASDAQ:HTLD), it didn't seem to tick all of these boxes.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

For those that aren't sure what ROCE is, it measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for Heartland Express:

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

0.082 = US$69m ÷ (US$958m - US$117m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2021).

Therefore, Heartland Express has an ROCE of 8.2%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Transportation industry average of 12%.

View our latest analysis for Heartland Express

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In the above chart we have measured Heartland Express' prior ROCE against its prior performance, but the future is arguably more important. If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report for Heartland Express.

The Trend Of ROCE

In terms of Heartland Express' historical ROCE movements, the trend isn't fantastic. To be more specific, ROCE has fallen from 12% over the last five years. However it looks like Heartland Express 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.

In Conclusion...

Bringing it all together, while we're somewhat encouraged by Heartland Express' reinvestment in its own business, we're aware that returns are shrinking. And in the last five years, the stock has given away 16% so the market doesn't look too hopeful on these trends strengthening any time soon. All in all, the inherent trends aren't typical of multi-baggers, so if that's what you're after, we think you might have more luck elsewhere.

If you'd like to know more about Heartland Express, we've spotted 2 warning signs, and 1 of them shouldn't be ignored.

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. 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.

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