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Is Cardtronics plc’s (NASDAQ:CATM) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Brandy Kinsey

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Today we are going to look at Cardtronics plc (NASDAQ:CATM) 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 of all, we’ll work out how to 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.

What is 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. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since ‘No two businesses are exactly alike.’

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Cardtronics:

0.084 = US$153m ÷ (US$1.8b – US$372m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Cardtronics has an ROCE of 8.4%.

See our latest analysis for Cardtronics

Does Cardtronics Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that Cardtronics’s ROCE is fairly close to the IT industry average of 10%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Cardtronics’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Cardtronics’s current ROCE of 8.4% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 14%, 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NASDAQGS:CATM Last Perf February 12th 19

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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Cardtronics.

How Cardtronics’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. 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.

Cardtronics has total assets of US$1.8b and current liabilities of US$372m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 21% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

Our Take On Cardtronics’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with Cardtronics’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. 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.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.