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Vertu Motors' (LON:VTU) Returns On Capital Not Reflecting Well On The Business

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Finding a business that has the potential to grow substantially is not easy, but it is possible if we look at a few key financial metrics. Firstly, we'd want to identify a growing return on capital employed (ROCE) and then alongside that, an ever-increasing base of capital employed. Ultimately, this demonstrates that it's a business that is reinvesting profits at increasing rates of return. Having said that, from a first glance at Vertu Motors (LON:VTU) we aren't jumping out of our chairs at how returns are trending, but let's have a deeper look.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

Just to clarify if you're unsure, ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. The formula for this calculation on Vertu Motors is:

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

0.074 = UK£32m ÷ (UK£1.2b - UK£724m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to February 2021).

Therefore, Vertu Motors has an ROCE of 7.4%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Specialty Retail industry average of 13%.

View our latest analysis for Vertu Motors

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In the above chart we have measured Vertu Motors' 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 Vertu Motors.

So How Is Vertu Motors' ROCE Trending?

When we looked at the ROCE trend at Vertu Motors, we didn't gain much confidence. To be more specific, ROCE has fallen from 12% over the last five years. And considering revenue has dropped while employing more capital, we'd be cautious. This could mean that the business is losing its competitive advantage or market share, because while more money is being put into ventures, it's actually producing a lower return - "less bang for their buck" per se.

On a side note, Vertu Motors has done well to pay down its current liabilities to 62% of total assets. That could partly explain why the ROCE has dropped. 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. Since the business is basically funding more of its operations with it's own money, you could argue this has made the business less efficient at generating ROCE. Either way, they're still at a pretty high level, so we'd like to see them fall further if possible.

In Conclusion...

In summary, we're somewhat concerned by Vertu Motors' diminishing returns on increasing amounts of capital. In spite of that, the stock has delivered a 29% 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.

One more thing to note, we've identified 1 warning sign with Vertu Motors and understanding this should be part of your investment process.

If you want to search for solid companies with great earnings, check out this free list of companies with good balance sheets and impressive 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.

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