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Curtiss-Wright Corporation (NYSE:CW) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Curtiss-Wright Corporation (NYSE:CW) 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.

Firstly, 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.

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

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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'.

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 Curtiss-Wright:

0.14 = US$409m ÷ (US$3.5b - US$648m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Curtiss-Wright has an ROCE of 14%.

Check out our latest analysis for Curtiss-Wright

Is Curtiss-Wright's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, we find that Curtiss-Wright's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 11% average in the Aerospace & Defense industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where Curtiss-Wright sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Curtiss-Wright's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:CW Past Revenue and Net Income, December 21st 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Curtiss-Wright.

Do Curtiss-Wright's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Curtiss-Wright has total liabilities of US$648m and total assets of US$3.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 19% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Curtiss-Wright's ROCE

Overall, Curtiss-Wright has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Curtiss-Wright 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).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.