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What These Trends Mean At McColl's Retail Group (LON:MCLS)

Simply Wall St

When it comes to investing, there are some useful financial metrics that can warn us when a business is potentially in trouble. More often than not, we'll see a declining return on capital employed (ROCE) and a declining amount of capital employed. This indicates the company is producing less profit from its investments and its total assets are decreasing. And from a first read, things don't look too good at McColl's Retail Group (LON:MCLS), so let's see why.

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. To calculate this metric for McColl's Retail Group, this is the formula:

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

0.085 = UK£15m ÷ (UK£410m - UK£229m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2019).

Thus, McColl's Retail Group has an ROCE of 8.5%. On its own, that's a low figure but it's around the 9.0% average generated by the Consumer Retailing industry.

View our latest analysis for McColl's Retail Group

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In the above chart we have a measured McColl's Retail Group'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 McColl's Retail Group here for free.

So How Is McColl's Retail Group's ROCE Trending?

There is reason to be cautious about McColl's Retail Group, given the returns are trending downwards. To be more specific, the ROCE was 14% five years ago, but since then it has dropped noticeably. On top of that, it's worth noting that the amount of capital employed within the business has remained relatively steady. Since returns are falling and the business has the same amount of assets employed, this can suggest it's a mature business that hasn't had much growth in the last five years. If these trends continue, we wouldn't expect McColl's Retail Group to turn into a multi-bagger.

On a side note, McColl's Retail Group's current liabilities have increased over the last five years to 56% of total assets, effectively distorting the ROCE to some degree. If current liabilities hadn't increased as much as they did, the ROCE could actually be even lower. What this means is that in reality, a rather large portion of the business is being funded by the likes of the company's suppliers or short-term creditors, which can bring some risks of its own.

Our Take On McColl's Retail Group's ROCE

In the end, the trend of lower returns on the same amount of capital isn't typically an indication that we're looking at a growth stock. It should come as no surprise then that the stock has fallen 69% over the last five years, so it looks like investors are recognizing these changes. Unless these trends revert to a more positive trajectory, we would look elsewhere.

One more thing: We've identified 4 warning signs with McColl's Retail Group (at least 2 which are potentially serious) , and understanding them would certainly be useful.

For those who like to invest in solid companies, check out this free list of companies with solid balance sheets and high 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@simplywallst.com.