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Telstra (ASX:TLS) Will Be Looking To Turn Around Its Returns

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What underlying fundamental trends can indicate that a company might be in decline? Typically, we'll see the trend of both return on capital employed (ROCE) declining and this usually coincides with a decreasing amount of capital employed. This combination can tell you that not only is the company investing less, it's earning less on what it does invest. In light of that, from a first glance at Telstra (ASX:TLS), we've spotted some signs that it could be struggling, so let's investigate.

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. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for Telstra:

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

0.066 = AU$2.1b ÷ (AU$43b - AU$10b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2021).

Therefore, Telstra has an ROCE of 6.6%. On its own, that's a low figure but it's around the 5.9% average generated by the Telecom industry.

See our latest analysis for Telstra

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Above you can see how the current ROCE for Telstra compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. If you'd like to see what analysts are forecasting going forward, you should check out our free report for Telstra.

What Does the ROCE Trend For Telstra Tell Us?

In terms of Telstra's historical ROCE movements, the trend doesn't inspire confidence. About five years ago, returns on capital were 17%, 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. Companies that exhibit these attributes tend to not be shrinking, but they can be mature and facing pressure on their margins from competition. If these trends continue, we wouldn't expect Telstra to turn into a multi-bagger.

What We Can Learn From Telstra's ROCE

All in all, the lower returns from the same amount of capital employed aren't exactly signs of a compounding machine. In spite of that, the stock has delivered a 1.3% return to shareholders who held over the last five years. Either way, we aren't huge fans of the current trends and so with that we think you might find better investments elsewhere.

Telstra does have some risks though, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for Telstra that you might be interested in.

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. 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.

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

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