What financial metrics can indicate to us that a company is maturing or even in decline? More often than not, we'll see a declining return on capital employed (ROCE) and a declining amount of capital employed. Basically the company is earning less on its investments and it is also reducing its total assets. And from a first read, things don't look too good at Kohl's (NYSE:KSS), so let's see why.
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. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for Kohl's:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.0012 = US$15m ÷ (US$15b - US$3.0b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to January 2021).
So, Kohl's has an ROCE of 0.1%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Multiline Retail industry average of 15%.
In the above chart we have measured Kohl's' prior ROCE against its prior performance, but the future is arguably more important. If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report for Kohl's.
How Are Returns Trending?
In terms of Kohl's' historical ROCE movements, the trend doesn't inspire confidence. About five years ago, returns on capital were 14%, however they're now substantially lower than that as we saw above. On top of that, it's worth noting that the amount of capital employed within the business has remained relatively steady. This combination can be indicative of a mature business that still has areas to deploy capital, but the returns received aren't as high due potentially to new competition or smaller margins. So because these trends aren't typically conducive to creating a multi-bagger, we wouldn't hold our breath on Kohl's becoming one if things continue as they have.
The Bottom Line
In summary, it's unfortunate that Kohl's is generating lower returns from the same amount of capital. But investors must be expecting an improvement of sorts because over the last five yearsthe stock has delivered a respectable 61% return. In any case, the current underlying trends don't bode well for long term performance so unless they reverse, we'd start looking elsewhere.
Since virtually every company faces some risks, it's worth knowing what they are, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Kohl's (of which 1 makes us a bit uncomfortable!) that you should know about.
While Kohl's isn't earning the highest return, check out this free list of companies that are earning high returns on equity with solid balance sheets.
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