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Are Comtech Telecommunications Corp.’s Returns On Capital Worth Investigating?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Comtech Telecommunications Corp. (NASDAQ:CMTL) 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 Comtech Telecommunications:

0.067 = US$50m ÷ (US$903m - US$162m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to April 2019.)

Therefore, Comtech Telecommunications has an ROCE of 6.7%.

Check out our latest analysis for Comtech Telecommunications

Is Comtech Telecommunications's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Comtech Telecommunications's ROCE is around the 7.2% average reported by the Communications industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Comtech Telecommunications's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

In our analysis, Comtech Telecommunications's ROCE appears to be 6.7%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 2.8%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Comtech Telecommunications's past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqGS:CMTL Past Revenue and Net Income, August 12th 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 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 Comtech Telecommunications.

Do Comtech Telecommunications's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Comtech Telecommunications has total assets of US$903m and current liabilities of US$162m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Comtech Telecommunications's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Comtech Telecommunications's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.