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Are Ennis, Inc.’s (NYSE:EBF) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Ennis, Inc. (NYSE:EBF) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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.'

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Ennis:

0.15 = US$50m ÷ (US$386m - US$38m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to May 2019.)

Therefore, Ennis has an ROCE of 15%.

Check out our latest analysis for Ennis

Does Ennis Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Ennis's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 11% average in the Commercial Services industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Separate from Ennis's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

You can see in the image below how Ennis's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:EBF Past Revenue and Net Income, August 11th 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Ennis.

How Ennis's Current Liabilities Impact 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.

Ennis has total liabilities of US$38m and total assets of US$386m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 9.9% of its total assets. In addition to low current liabilities (making a negligible impact on ROCE), Ennis earns a sound return on capital employed.

The Bottom Line On Ennis's ROCE

If Ennis can continue reinvesting in its business, it could be an attractive prospect. There might be better investments than Ennis out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.