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3M (NYSE:MMM) Is Reinvesting At Lower Rates Of Return

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. Although, when we looked at 3M (NYSE:MMM), it didn't seem to tick all of these boxes.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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. The formula for this calculation on 3M is:

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

0.15 = US$5.6b ÷ (US$46b - US$9.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2022).

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So, 3M has an ROCE of 15%. In absolute terms, that's a satisfactory return, but compared to the Industrials industry average of 7.6% it's much better.

See our latest analysis for 3M

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In the above chart we have measured 3M's prior ROCE against its prior performance, but the future is arguably more important. 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 3M's ROCE Trend?

On the surface, the trend of ROCE at 3M doesn't inspire confidence. To be more specific, ROCE has fallen from 24% over the last five years. However it looks like 3M 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 may take some time before the company starts to see any change in earnings from these investments.

The Key Takeaway

In summary, 3M is reinvesting funds back into the business for growth but unfortunately it looks like sales haven't increased much just yet. And investors appear hesitant that the trends will pick up because the stock has fallen 45% in the last five years. In any case, the stock doesn't have these traits of a multi-bagger discussed above, so if that's what you're looking for, we think you'd have more luck elsewhere.

One more thing, we've spotted 2 warning signs facing 3M that you might find interesting.

While 3M isn't earning the highest return, check out this free list of companies that are earning high returns on equity with solid balance sheets.

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

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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