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Should Dycom Industries, Inc.’s (NYSE:DY) Weak Investment Returns Worry You?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Dycom Industries, Inc. (NYSE:DY) and reflect on its potential as an investment. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we'll compare its ROCE 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 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. 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?

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 Dycom Industries:

0.06 = US$119m ÷ (US$2.3b - US$357m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to July 2019.)

Therefore, Dycom Industries has an ROCE of 6.0%.

View our latest analysis for Dycom Industries

Is Dycom Industries's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Dycom Industries's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 9.7% average in the Construction industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Aside from the industry comparison, Dycom Industries's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

We can see that, Dycom Industries currently has an ROCE of 6.0%, less than the 18% it reported 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently. You can see in the image below how Dycom Industries's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:DY Past Revenue and Net Income, October 22nd 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Dycom Industries'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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Dycom Industries has total assets of US$2.3b and current liabilities of US$357m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 15% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Dycom Industries's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Dycom Industries's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better investment than Dycom Industries. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.