If you're looking for a multi-bagger, there's a few things to keep an eye out for. Typically, we'll want to notice a trend of growing return on capital employed (ROCE) and alongside that, an expanding base of capital employed. Put simply, these types of businesses are compounding machines, meaning they are continually reinvesting their earnings at ever-higher rates of return. And in light of that, the trends we're seeing at A. O. Smith's (NYSE:AOS) look very promising so lets take a look.
Understanding 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. The formula for this calculation on A. O. Smith is:
Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)
0.29 = US$700m ÷ (US$3.2b - US$861m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2023).
So, A. O. Smith has an ROCE of 29%. In absolute terms that's a great return and it's even better than the Building industry average of 15%.
Above you can see how the current ROCE for A. O. Smith 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.
What Can We Tell From A. O. Smith's ROCE Trend?
A. O. Smith has not disappointed with their ROCE growth. More specifically, while the company has kept capital employed relatively flat over the last five years, the ROCE has climbed 22% in that same time. So our take on this is that the business has increased efficiencies to generate these higher returns, all the while not needing to make any additional investments. It's worth looking deeper into this though because while it's great that the business is more efficient, it might also mean that going forward the areas to invest internally for the organic growth are lacking.
As discussed above, A. O. Smith appears to be getting more proficient at generating returns since capital employed has remained flat but earnings (before interest and tax) are up. Considering the stock has delivered 30% to its stockholders over the last five years, it may be fair to think that investors aren't fully aware of the promising trends yet. So with that in mind, we think the stock deserves further research.
One more thing, we've spotted 2 warning signs facing A. O. Smith that you might find interesting.
If you'd like to see other companies earning high returns, check out our free list of companies earning high returns with solid balance sheets here.
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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.