There Are Reasons To Feel Uneasy About United States Cellular's (NYSE:USM) Returns On Capital

United States Cellular Corporation -8.36% Pre

United States Cellular Corporation

USM

44.19

44.19

-8.36%

0.00% Pre

If we want to find a potential multi-bagger, often there are underlying trends that can provide clues. Ideally, a business will show two trends; firstly a growing return on capital employed (ROCE) and secondly, an increasing amount of capital employed. If you see this, it typically means it's a company with a great business model and plenty of profitable reinvestment opportunities. However, after briefly looking over the numbers, we don't think United States Cellular (NYSE:USM) has the makings of a multi-bagger going forward, but let's have a look at why that may be.

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. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for United States Cellular:

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

0.012 = US$114m ÷ (US$11b - US$1.0b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2023).

Thus, United States Cellular has an ROCE of 1.2%. Ultimately, that's a low return and it under-performs the Wireless Telecom industry average of 16%.

Check out our latest analysis for United States Cellular

roce
NYSE:USM Return on Capital Employed January 30th 2024

In the above chart we have measured United States Cellular's 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 United States Cellular.

So How Is United States Cellular's ROCE Trending?

In terms of United States Cellular's historical ROCE movements, the trend isn't fantastic. To be more specific, ROCE has fallen from 2.1% over the last five years. Meanwhile, the business is utilizing more capital but this hasn't moved the needle much in terms of sales in the past 12 months, so this could reflect longer term investments. 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.

The Bottom Line

To conclude, we've found that United States Cellular is reinvesting in the business, but returns have been falling. And in the last five years, the stock has given away 22% so the market doesn't look too hopeful on these trends strengthening any time soon. On the whole, we aren't too inspired by the underlying trends and we think there may be better chances of finding a multi-bagger elsewhere.

One more thing: We've identified 3 warning signs with United States Cellular (at least 1 which is potentially serious) , and understanding them would certainly be useful.

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.

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