U.S. Markets open in 11 mins

Is Columbus McKinnon Corporation’s (NASDAQ:CMCO) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Columbus McKinnon Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCO) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Columbus McKinnon:

0.11 = US$97m ÷ (US$1.1b - US$195m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Columbus McKinnon has an ROCE of 11%.

View our latest analysis for Columbus McKinnon

Does Columbus McKinnon Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Columbus McKinnon's ROCE is around the 11% average reported by the Machinery industry. Independently of how Columbus McKinnon compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

In our analysis, Columbus McKinnon's ROCE appears to be 11%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 8.0%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NasdaqGS:CMCO Past Revenue and Net Income, April 19th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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 only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Columbus McKinnon.

Do Columbus McKinnon's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Columbus McKinnon has total liabilities of US$195m and total assets of US$1.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Columbus McKinnon's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Columbus McKinnon could be worth a closer look. Columbus McKinnon 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.

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.