U.S. Markets open in 1 hr 53 mins

Don’t Buy Apergy Corporation (NYSE:APY) Until You Understand Its ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Apergy Corporation (NYSE:APY) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

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

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. 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'.

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 Apergy:

0.10 = US$185m ÷ (US$2.0b - US$201m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Apergy has an ROCE of 10%.

Check out our latest analysis for Apergy

Does Apergy Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Apergy's ROCE is fairly close to the Energy Services industry average of 9.8%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Apergy'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.

In our analysis, Apergy's ROCE appears to be 10%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 3.2%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Apergy's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:APY Past Revenue and Net Income, September 2nd 2019

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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Given the industry it operates in, Apergy could be considered cyclical. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Apergy.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Apergy's ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Apergy has total liabilities of US$201m and total assets of US$2.0b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 10% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Apergy's ROCE

If Apergy continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. 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.