Today we’ll evaluate Hub Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:HUBG) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.
What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?
ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since ‘No two businesses are exactly alike.’
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 Hub Group:
0.086 = US$120m ÷ (US$1.9b – US$527m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)
Therefore, Hub Group has an ROCE of 8.6%.
Does Hub Group Have A Good ROCE?
ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Hub Group’s ROCE is around the 9.9% average reported by the Logistics industry. Separate from how Hub Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.
Hub Group’s current ROCE of 8.6% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 12% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.
Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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. 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 Hub Group.
Hub Group’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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.
Hub Group has total liabilities of US$527m and total assets of US$1.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 27% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.
The Bottom Line On Hub Group’s ROCE
With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with Hub Group’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. 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.
I will like Hub Group better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.