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Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

Miguel Kauffman

Today we’ll look at Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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?

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 Cummins:

0.19 = US$2.0b ÷ (US$19b – US$6.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Cummins has an ROCE of 19%.

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Is Cummins’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, we find that Cummins’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 12% average in the Machinery industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Independently of how Cummins compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.


NYSE:CMI Last Perf January 13th 19

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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How Cummins’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Cummins has total liabilities of US$6.4b and total assets of US$19b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 34% of its total assets. Cummins has a middling amount of current liabilities, increasing its ROCE somewhat.

Our Take On Cummins’s ROCE

With a decent ROCE, the company could be interesting, but remember that the level of current liabilities make the ROCE look better. But note: Cummins may not be the best stock to buy. 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 like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.