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We're Watching These Trends At Coles Group (ASX:COL)

Simply Wall St
·3 mins read

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. Ultimately, this demonstrates that it's a business that is reinvesting profits at increasing rates of return. However, after briefly looking over the numbers, we don't think Coles Group (ASX:COL) has the makings of a multi-bagger going forward, but let's have a look at why that may be.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

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. The formula for this calculation on Coles Group is:

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

0.13 = AU$1.7b ÷ (AU$18b - AU$5.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2020).

Therefore, Coles Group has an ROCE of 13%. In absolute terms, that's a satisfactory return, but compared to the Consumer Retailing industry average of 9.6% it's much better.

Check out our latest analysis for Coles Group

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Above you can see how the current ROCE for Coles Group 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.

How Are Returns Trending?

When we looked at the ROCE trend at Coles Group, we didn't gain much confidence. Around one year ago the returns on capital were 22%, but since then they've fallen to 13%. However it looks like Coles Group 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.

On a related note, Coles Group has decreased its current liabilities to 31% of total assets. So we could link some of this to the decrease in ROCE. What's more, this can reduce some aspects of risk to the business because now the company's suppliers or short-term creditors are funding less of its operations. Some would claim this reduces the business' efficiency at generating ROCE since it is now funding more of the operations with its own money.

Our Take On Coles Group's ROCE

In summary, Coles Group is reinvesting funds back into the business for growth but unfortunately it looks like sales haven't increased much just yet. Since the stock has gained an impressive 18% over the last year, investors must think there's better things to come. But if the trajectory of these underlying trends continue, we think the likelihood of it being a multi-bagger from here isn't high.

One more thing, we've spotted 2 warning signs facing Coles Group that you might find interesting.

While Coles Group 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. 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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