U.S. Markets closed

Do ACCO Brands Corporation’s (NYSE:ACCO) Returns On Capital Employed Make The Cut?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate ACCO Brands Corporation (NYSE:ACCO) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. Renowned investment researcher Michael Mauboussin has suggested that a high ROCE can indicate that 'one dollar invested in the company generates value of more than one dollar'.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

Analysts use this formula to calculate return on capital employed:

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

Or for ACCO Brands:

0.094 = US$211m ÷ (US$2.7b - US$478m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, ACCO Brands has an ROCE of 9.4%.

See our latest analysis for ACCO Brands

Is ACCO Brands's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, ACCO Brands's ROCE appears to be around the 9.3% average of the Commercial Services industry. Aside from the industry comparison, ACCO Brands's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

You can see in the image below how ACCO Brands's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:ACCO Past Revenue and Net Income, November 18th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for ACCO Brands.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect ACCO Brands's ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

ACCO Brands has total liabilities of US$478m and total assets of US$2.7b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From ACCO Brands's ROCE

If ACCO Brands continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.