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When we're researching a company, it's sometimes hard to find the warning signs, but there are some financial metrics that can help spot trouble early. Typically, we'll see the trend of both return on capital employed (ROCE) declining and this usually coincides with a decreasing amount of capital employed. Trends like this ultimately mean the business is reducing its investments and also earning less on what it has invested. So after glancing at the trends within MRC Global (NYSE:MRC), we weren't too hopeful.
Understanding 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. To calculate this metric for MRC Global, this is the formula:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.022 = US$28m ÷ (US$1.7b - US$466m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).
So, MRC Global has an ROCE of 2.2%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Trade Distributors industry average of 11%.
In the above chart we have measured MRC Global's 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.
How Are Returns Trending?
We are a bit anxious about the trends of ROCE at MRC Global. To be more specific, today's ROCE was 3.6% five years ago but has since fallen to 2.2%. On top of that, the business is utilizing 35% less capital within its operations. When you see both ROCE and capital employed diminishing, it can often be a sign of a mature and shrinking business that might be in structural decline. If these underlying trends continue, we wouldn't be too optimistic going forward.
In summary, it's unfortunate that MRC Global is shrinking its capital base and also generating lower returns. Long term shareholders who've owned the stock over the last five years have experienced a 45% depreciation in their investment, so it appears the market might not like these trends either. That being the case, unless the underlying trends revert to a more positive trajectory, we'd consider looking elsewhere.
On a final note, we've found 1 warning sign for MRC Global that we think you should be aware of.
While MRC Global may not currently earn the highest returns, we've compiled a list of companies that currently earn more than 25% return on equity. Check out this free list here.
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.
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