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A Close Look At UFP Technologies, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:UFPT) 13% ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at UFP Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:UFPT) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its 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.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 UFP Technologies:

0.13 = US$23m ÷ (US$195m - US$21m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, UFP Technologies has an ROCE of 13%.

View our latest analysis for UFP Technologies

Is UFP Technologies's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that UFP Technologies's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 10% average in the Packaging industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from UFP Technologies's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

The image below shows how UFP Technologies's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqCM:UFPT Past Revenue and Net Income, October 9th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do UFP Technologies'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. 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.

UFP Technologies has total assets of US$195m and current liabilities of US$21m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 11% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From UFP Technologies's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, UFP Technologies could be worth a closer look. UFP Technologies shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

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

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.