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What Can We Make Of Applied Industrial Technologies, Inc.’s (NYSE:AIT) High Return On Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we’ll look at Applied Industrial Technologies, Inc. (NYSE:AIT) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared 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 metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 Applied Industrial Technologies:

0.14 = US$263m ÷ (US$2.3b – US$394m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Applied Industrial Technologies has an ROCE of 14%.

Check out our latest analysis for Applied Industrial Technologies

Is Applied Industrial Technologies’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In our analysis, Applied Industrial Technologies’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 8.0% average in the Trade Distributors industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where Applied Industrial Technologies sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

NYSE:AIT Past Revenue and Net Income, March 10th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Applied Industrial Technologies.

How Applied Industrial Technologies’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Applied Industrial Technologies has total assets of US$2.3b and current liabilities of US$394m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 17% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Applied Industrial Technologies’s ROCE

With that in mind, Applied Industrial Technologies’s ROCE appears pretty good. You might be able to find a better buy than Applied Industrial Technologies. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

I will like Applied Industrial Technologies better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.