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Are Badger Meter, Inc.’s (NYSE:BMI) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Badger Meter, Inc. (NYSE:BMI) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

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.

Understanding 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. 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 Badger Meter:

0.17 = US$60m ÷ (US$417m - US$59m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Badger Meter has an ROCE of 17%.

See our latest analysis for Badger Meter

Is Badger Meter's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Badger Meter's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 12% average in the Electronic industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Independently of how Badger Meter compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

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

NYSE:BMI Past Revenue and Net Income, December 7th 2019
NYSE:BMI Past Revenue and Net Income, December 7th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Badger Meter.

Do Badger Meter'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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Badger Meter has total assets of US$417m and current liabilities of US$59m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 14% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Badger Meter's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Badger Meter could be worth a closer look. Badger Meter shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.