Today we'll look at Clearfield, Inc. (NASDAQ:CLFD) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.
First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Clearfield:
0.057 = US$4.4m ÷ (US$83m - US$5.3m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)
Therefore, Clearfield has an ROCE of 5.7%.
Does Clearfield Have A Good ROCE?
One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that Clearfield's ROCE is fairly close to the Communications industry average of 5.9%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Clearfield'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.
We can see that, Clearfield currently has an ROCE of 5.7%, less than the 15% it reported 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. The image below shows how Clearfield's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.
When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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 Clearfield.
How Clearfield'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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.
Clearfield has total assets of US$83m and current liabilities of US$5.3m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 6.3% of its total assets. Clearfield has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.
The Bottom Line On Clearfield's ROCE
Based on this information, Clearfield appears to be a mediocre business. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.
Clearfield is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.
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