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Are Boule Diagnostics AB (publ)’s (STO:BOUL) High Returns Really That Great?

Brandie Wetzel

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Today we’ll look at Boule Diagnostics AB (publ) (STO:BOUL) and reflect on its potential as an investment. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from 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’.

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 Boule Diagnostics:

0.17 = kr55m ÷ (kr501m – kr171m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Boule Diagnostics has an ROCE of 17%.

View our latest analysis for Boule Diagnostics

Is Boule Diagnostics’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Boule Diagnostics’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 8.7% average in the Medical Equipment industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Independently of how Boule Diagnostics compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

In our analysis, Boule Diagnostics’s ROCE appears to be 17%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 10%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

OM:BOUL Past Revenue and Net Income, February 23rd 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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 Boule Diagnostics.

How Boule Diagnostics’s Current Liabilities Impact 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.

Boule Diagnostics has total liabilities of kr171m and total assets of kr501m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 34% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, Boule Diagnostics’s ROCE is boosted somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Boule Diagnostics’s ROCE

Boule Diagnostics’s ROCE does look good, but the level of current liabilities also contribute to that. But note: Boule Diagnostics may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.