Should You Be Impressed By Universal Logistics Holdings' (NASDAQ:ULH) Returns on Capital?

Simply Wall St
·3 min read

If we want to find a potential multi-bagger, often there are underlying trends that can provide clues. In a perfect world, we'd like to see a company investing more capital into its business and ideally the returns earned from that capital are also increasing. Basically this means that a company has profitable initiatives that it can continue to reinvest in, which is a trait of a compounding machine. However, after briefly looking over the numbers, we don't think Universal Logistics Holdings (NASDAQ:ULH) has the makings of a multi-bagger going forward, but let's have a look at why that may be.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

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 Universal Logistics Holdings, this is the formula:

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

0.095 = US$80m ÷ (US$1.1b - US$213m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2020).

Therefore, Universal Logistics Holdings has an ROCE of 9.5%. On its own, that's a low figure but it's around the 10.0% average generated by the Transportation industry.

See our latest analysis for Universal Logistics Holdings

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Above you can see how the current ROCE for Universal Logistics Holdings 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 Universal Logistics Holdings here for free.

What The Trend Of ROCE Can Tell Us

In terms of Universal Logistics Holdings' historical ROCE movements, the trend isn't fantastic. Around five years ago the returns on capital were 21%, but since then they've fallen to 9.5%. However it looks like Universal Logistics Holdings might be reinvesting for long term growth because while capital employed has increased, the company's sales haven't changed much in the last 12 months. It's worth keeping an eye on the company's earnings from here on to see if these investments do end up contributing to the bottom line.

On a related note, Universal Logistics Holdings has decreased its current liabilities to 20% of total assets. So we could link some of this to the decrease in ROCE. 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. Some would claim this reduces the business' efficiency at generating ROCE since it is now funding more of the operations with its own money.

The Bottom Line

To conclude, we've found that Universal Logistics Holdings is reinvesting in the business, but returns have been falling. Since the stock has gained an impressive 65% over the last five years, investors must think there's better things to come. But if the trajectory of these underlying trends continue, we think the likelihood of it being a multi-bagger from here isn't high.

Universal Logistics Holdings does have some risks though, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Universal Logistics Holdings that you might be interested in.

While Universal Logistics Holdings may not currently earn the highest returns, we've compiled a list of companies that currently earn more than 25% return on equity. Check out this free list here.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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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