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Blue Bird Corporation (NASDAQ:BLBD) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Blue Bird Corporation (NASDAQ:BLBD) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

The formula for calculating the return on capital employed is:

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

Or for Blue Bird:

0.22 = US$40m ÷ (US$355m - US$174m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Blue Bird has an ROCE of 22%.

View our latest analysis for Blue Bird

Is Blue Bird's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that Blue Bird's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 11% average in the Machinery industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, Blue Bird's ROCE is currently very good.

Blue Bird's current ROCE of 22% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 39%, 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Blue Bird's past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqGM:BLBD Past Revenue and Net Income, August 1st 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Blue Bird's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that 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.

Blue Bird has total liabilities of US$174m and total assets of US$355m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 49% of its total assets. Blue Bird's ROCE is boosted somewhat by its middling amount of current liabilities.

The Bottom Line On Blue Bird's ROCE

Despite this, it reports a high ROCE, and may be worth investigating further. Blue Bird looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

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.