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Don’t Buy Columbus McKinnon Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCO) Until You Understand Its ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Columbus McKinnon Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCO) 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, 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its 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 Columbus McKinnon:

0.11 = US$98m ÷ (US$1.1b - US$205m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Columbus McKinnon has an ROCE of 11%.

View our latest analysis for Columbus McKinnon

Is Columbus McKinnon's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Columbus McKinnon's ROCE is around the 11% average reported by the Machinery industry. Separate from Columbus McKinnon's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

Our data shows that Columbus McKinnon currently has an ROCE of 11%, compared to its ROCE of 8.0% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. You can see in the image below how Columbus McKinnon's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:CMCO Past Revenue and Net Income, October 3rd 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 Columbus McKinnon.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Columbus McKinnon'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. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Columbus McKinnon has total assets of US$1.1b and current liabilities of US$205m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 19% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

Our Take On Columbus McKinnon's ROCE

Overall, Columbus McKinnon has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Columbus McKinnon shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

I will like Columbus McKinnon better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.