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Iridium Communications' (NASDAQ:IRDM) Returns On Capital Tell Us There Is Reason To Feel Uneasy

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When researching a stock for investment, what can tell us that the company is in decline? Businesses in decline often have two underlying trends, firstly, a declining return on capital employed (ROCE) and a declining base of capital employed. Trends like this ultimately mean the business is reducing its investments and also earning less on what it has invested. So after glancing at the trends within Iridium Communications (NASDAQ:IRDM), we weren't too hopeful.

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 Iridium Communications, this is the formula:

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

0.019 = US$57m ÷ (US$3.1b - US$96m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2022).

Thus, Iridium Communications has an ROCE of 1.9%. In absolute terms, that's a low return and it also under-performs the Telecom industry average of 8.3%.

Check out our latest analysis for Iridium Communications

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Above you can see how the current ROCE for Iridium Communications compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. If you'd like, you can check out the forecasts from the analysts covering Iridium Communications here for free.

What Does the ROCE Trend For Iridium Communications Tell Us?

We are a bit worried about the trend of returns on capital at Iridium Communications. Unfortunately the returns on capital have diminished from the 5.0% that they were earning five years ago. Meanwhile, capital employed in the business has stayed roughly the flat over the period. 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. If these trends continue, we wouldn't expect Iridium Communications to turn into a multi-bagger.

The Bottom Line

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. Yet despite these poor fundamentals, the stock has gained a huge 219% over the last five years, so investors appear very optimistic. In any case, the current underlying trends don't bode well for long term performance so unless they reverse, we'd start looking elsewhere.

Like most companies, Iridium Communications does come with some risks, and we've found 1 warning sign that you should be aware of.

While Iridium Communications isn't earning the highest return, check out this free list of companies that are earning high returns on equity with solid balance sheets.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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