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Is EnPro Industries, Inc. (NYSE:NPO) Better Than Average At Deploying Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate EnPro Industries, Inc. (NYSE:NPO) 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 EnPro Industries:

0.094 = US$135m ÷ (US$1.7b - US$290m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, EnPro Industries has an ROCE of 9.4%.

Check out our latest analysis for EnPro Industries

Does EnPro Industries Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see EnPro Industries's ROCE is around the 12% average reported by the Machinery industry. Aside from the industry comparison, EnPro Industries'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.

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

NYSE:NPO Past Revenue and Net Income, August 12th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 EnPro Industries.

Do EnPro Industries's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

EnPro Industries has total assets of US$1.7b and current liabilities of US$290m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 17% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

Our Take On EnPro Industries's ROCE

If EnPro Industries 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.

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.