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If you're not sure where to start when looking for the next multi-bagger, there are a few key trends you should keep an eye out for. Ideally, a business will show two trends; firstly a growing return on capital employed (ROCE) and secondly, an increasing 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. However, after briefly looking over the numbers, we don't think US Ecology (NASDAQ:ECOL) has the makings of a multi-bagger going forward, but let's have a look at why that may be.
Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)
If you haven't worked with ROCE before, it measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. To calculate this metric for US Ecology, this is the formula:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.024 = US$40m ÷ (US$1.8b - US$165m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2021).
Therefore, US Ecology has an ROCE of 2.4%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Commercial Services industry average of 7.5%.
In the above chart we have measured US Ecology'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?
On the surface, the trend of ROCE at US Ecology doesn't inspire confidence. Over the last five years, returns on capital have decreased to 2.4% from 11% five years ago. However, given capital employed and revenue have both increased it appears that the business is currently pursuing growth, at the consequence of short term returns. And if the increased capital generates additional returns, the business, and thus shareholders, will benefit in the long run.
The Key Takeaway
While returns have fallen for US Ecology in recent times, we're encouraged to see that sales are growing and that the business is reinvesting in its operations. And there could be an opportunity here if other metrics look good too, because the stock has declined 19% in the last five years. As a result, we'd recommend researching this stock further to uncover what other fundamentals of the business can show us.
While US Ecology doesn't shine too bright in this respect, it's still worth seeing if the company is trading at attractive prices. You can find that out with our FREE intrinsic value estimation on our platform.
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.
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