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UniFirst (NYSE:UNF) Could Be Struggling To Allocate Capital

·2-min read

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. Typically, we'll want to notice a trend of growing return on capital employed (ROCE) and alongside that, an expanding base of capital employed. Ultimately, this demonstrates that it's a business that is reinvesting profits at increasing rates of return. Although, when we looked at UniFirst (NYSE:UNF), it didn't seem to tick all of these boxes.

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

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. Analysts use this formula to calculate it for UniFirst:

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

0.067 = US$146m ÷ (US$2.4b - US$247m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to May 2022).

Thus, UniFirst has an ROCE of 6.7%. In absolute terms, that's a low return and it also under-performs the Commercial Services industry average of 8.5%.

Check out our latest analysis for UniFirst

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roce

Above you can see how the current ROCE for UniFirst compares to its prior returns on capital, but there's only so much you can tell from the past. If you're interested, you can view the analysts predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

So How Is UniFirst's ROCE Trending?

When we looked at the ROCE trend at UniFirst, we didn't gain much confidence. To be more specific, ROCE has fallen from 10% 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 may take some time before the company starts to see any change in earnings from these investments.

In Conclusion...

In summary, UniFirst is reinvesting funds back into the business for growth but unfortunately it looks like sales haven't increased much just yet. Unsurprisingly, the stock has only gained 27% over the last five years, which potentially indicates that investors are accounting for this going forward. As a result, if you're hunting for a multi-bagger, we think you'd have more luck elsewhere.

One more thing, we've spotted 1 warning sign facing UniFirst that you might find interesting.

While UniFirst 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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