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Has Australian Pharmaceutical Industries Limited (ASX:API) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Australian Pharmaceutical Industries Limited (ASX:API) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Australian Pharmaceutical Industries:

0.091 = AU$76m ÷ (AU$1.6b - AU$734m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to February 2019.)

Therefore, Australian Pharmaceutical Industries has an ROCE of 9.1%.

See our latest analysis for Australian Pharmaceutical Industries

Is Australian Pharmaceutical Industries's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that Australian Pharmaceutical Industries's ROCE is fairly close to the Healthcare industry average of 9.5%. Separate from how Australian Pharmaceutical Industries stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Australian Pharmaceutical Industries's past growth compares to other companies.

ASX:API Past Revenue and Net Income, October 7th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 Australian Pharmaceutical Industries.

Do Australian Pharmaceutical Industries's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Australian Pharmaceutical Industries has total liabilities of AU$734m and total assets of AU$1.6b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 47% of its total assets. Australian Pharmaceutical Industries's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

What We Can Learn From Australian Pharmaceutical Industries's ROCE

With this level of liabilities and a mediocre ROCE, there are potentially better investments out there. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Australian Pharmaceutical Industries. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.