To find a multi-bagger stock, what are the underlying trends we should look for in a business? 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. If you see this, it typically means it's a company with a great business model and plenty of profitable reinvestment opportunities. With that in mind, the ROCE of Zebra Technologies (NASDAQ:ZBRA) looks great, so lets see what the trend can tell us.
What is 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. The formula for this calculation on Zebra Technologies is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.21 = US$802m ÷ (US$5.4b - US$1.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to April 2021).
Thus, Zebra Technologies has an ROCE of 21%. That's a fantastic return and not only that, it outpaces the average of 10% earned by companies in a similar industry.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for Zebra Technologies compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. If you're interested, you can view the analysts predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.
What Can We Tell From Zebra Technologies' ROCE Trend?
Zebra Technologies' ROCE growth is quite impressive. The figures show that over the last five years, ROCE has grown 338% whilst employing roughly the same amount of capital. So it's likely that the business is now reaping the full benefits of its past investments, since the capital employed hasn't changed considerably. The company is doing well in that sense, and it's worth investigating what the management team has planned for long term growth prospects.
For the record though, there was a noticeable increase in the company's current liabilities over the period, so we would attribute some of the ROCE growth to that. Effectively this means that suppliers or short-term creditors are now funding 29% of the business, which is more than it was five years ago. It's worth keeping an eye on this because as the percentage of current liabilities to total assets increases, some aspects of risk also increase.
What We Can Learn From Zebra Technologies' ROCE
As discussed above, Zebra Technologies appears to be getting more proficient at generating returns since capital employed has remained flat but earnings (before interest and tax) are up. And with the stock having performed exceptionally well over the last five years, these patterns are being accounted for by investors. Therefore, we think it would be worth your time to check if these trends are going to continue.
One more thing, we've spotted 2 warning signs facing Zebra Technologies that you might find interesting.
Zebra Technologies 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.
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