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Ciena Corporation (NYSE:CIEN) Earns A Nice Return On Capital Employed

Today we'll look at Ciena Corporation (NYSE:CIEN) 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.

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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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.

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) Ã· (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

Or for Ciena:

0.12 = US\$375m Ã· (US\$3.9b - US\$846m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2019.)

So, Ciena has an ROCE of 12%.

View our latest analysis for Ciena

Does Ciena Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Ciena's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 7.0% average in the Communications industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Independently of how Ciena compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

Our data shows that Ciena currently has an ROCE of 12%, compared to its ROCE of 8.4% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. You can see in the image below how Ciena's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Ciena's 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Ciena has total liabilities of US\$846m and total assets of US\$3.9b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 22% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On Ciena's ROCE

With that in mind, Ciena's ROCE appears pretty good. Ciena 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.

I will like Ciena 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.