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Does SPX FLOW, Inc.’s (NYSE:FLOW) ROCE Reflect Well On The Business?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate SPX FLOW, Inc. (NYSE:FLOW) 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. 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'.

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 SPX FLOW:

0.10 = US$192m ÷ (US$2.6b - US$649m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, SPX FLOW has an ROCE of 10%.

Check out our latest analysis for SPX FLOW

Does SPX FLOW Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see SPX FLOW's ROCE is around the 11% average reported by the Machinery industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, SPX FLOW'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.

NYSE:FLOW Past Revenue and Net Income, April 12th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for SPX FLOW.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect SPX FLOW's 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 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.

SPX FLOW has total liabilities of US$649m and total assets of US$2.6b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 25% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From SPX FLOW's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with SPX FLOW'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.

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.