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Bel Fuse Inc. (NASDAQ:BELF.B) Might Not Be A Great Investment

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Bel Fuse Inc. (NASDAQ:BELF.B) 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.

First, 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 measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Bel Fuse:

0.057 = US$21m ÷ (US$450m - US$87m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Bel Fuse has an ROCE of 5.7%.

View our latest analysis for Bel Fuse

Is Bel Fuse's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Bel Fuse's ROCE is meaningfully below the Electronic industry average of 12%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Separate from how Bel Fuse stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Bel Fuse's current ROCE of 5.7% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 8.0%, 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently. The image below shows how Bel Fuse's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:BELF.B Past Revenue and Net Income, October 27th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 Bel Fuse.

Do Bel Fuse's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Bel Fuse has total assets of US$450m and current liabilities of US$87m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 19% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Bel Fuse's ROCE

If Bel Fuse 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.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.