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Do Covenant Transportation Group, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CVTI) Returns On Capital Employed Make The Cut?

Simply Wall St

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Today we are going to look at Covenant Transportation Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:CVTI) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Covenant Transportation Group:

0.093 = US$60m ÷ (US$774m - US$127m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Covenant Transportation Group has an ROCE of 9.3%.

See our latest analysis for Covenant Transportation Group

Does Covenant Transportation Group Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Covenant Transportation Group's ROCE appears to be around the 11% average of the Transportation industry. Separate from how Covenant Transportation Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

As we can see, Covenant Transportation Group currently has an ROCE of 9.3%, less than the 13% it reported 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NasdaqGS:CVTI Past Revenue and Net Income, May 10th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Covenant Transportation Group.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Covenant Transportation Group'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.

Covenant Transportation Group has total liabilities of US$127m and total assets of US$774m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 16% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Covenant Transportation Group's ROCE

That said, Covenant Transportation Group's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Covenant Transportation Group. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.