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Is CyberOptics Corporation (NASDAQ:CYBE) Struggling With Its 5.9% Return On Capital Employed?

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Today we'll look at CyberOptics Corporation (NASDAQ:CYBE) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. 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'.

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 CyberOptics:

0.059 = US$3.4m ÷ (US$70m - US$13m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, CyberOptics has an ROCE of 5.9%.

See our latest analysis for CyberOptics

Does CyberOptics Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, CyberOptics's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 13% average reported by the Semiconductor industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, CyberOptics'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.

CyberOptics reported an ROCE of 5.9% -- better than 3 years ago, when the company didn't make a profit. That suggests the business has returned to profitability.

NasdaqGM:CYBE Past Revenue and Net Income, April 3rd 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for CyberOptics.

How CyberOptics's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

CyberOptics has total liabilities of US$13m and total assets of US$70m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On CyberOptics's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with CyberOptics's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better buy than CyberOptics. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.