U.S. Markets open in 5 hrs 12 mins

Examining Kewaunee Scientific Corporation’s (NASDAQ:KEQU) Weak Return On Capital Employed

Jonathon Baker

Today we are going to look at Kewaunee Scientific Corporation (NASDAQ:KEQU) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. 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. 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’.

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 Kewaunee Scientific:

0.15 = US$9.1m ÷ (US$81m – US$24m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2018.)

So, Kewaunee Scientific has an ROCE of 15%.

View our latest analysis for Kewaunee Scientific

Want to help shape the future of investing tools and platforms? Take the survey and be part of one of the most advanced studies of stock market investors to date.

Is Kewaunee Scientific’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Kewaunee Scientific’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 11% average in the Medical Equipment industry. I think that’s good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Independently of how Kewaunee Scientific compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

Our data shows that Kewaunee Scientific currently has an ROCE of 15%, compared to its ROCE of 9.5% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NasdaqGM:KEQU Last Perf January 15th 19

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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 only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How Kewaunee Scientific’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Kewaunee Scientific has total liabilities of US$24m and total assets of US$81m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 30% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Kewaunee Scientific’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Kewaunee Scientific could be worth a closer look. 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).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.