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Is FLSmidth & Co. A/S (CPH:FLS) Struggling With Its 9.7% Return On Capital Employed?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at FLSmidth & Co. A/S (CPH:FLS) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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?

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 FLSmidth:

0.097 = ø1.2b ÷ (ø23b - ø11b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, FLSmidth has an ROCE of 9.7%.

Check out our latest analysis for FLSmidth

Does FLSmidth Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, FLSmidth's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Machinery industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Regardless of where FLSmidth sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

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

CPSE:FLS Past Revenue and Net Income, July 30th 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 FLSmidth'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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

FLSmidth has total assets of ø23b and current liabilities of ø11b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 46% of its total assets. FLSmidth has a middling amount of current liabilities, increasing its ROCE somewhat.

Our Take On FLSmidth's ROCE

With a decent ROCE, the company could be interesting, but remember that the level of current liabilities make the ROCE look better. There might be better investments than FLSmidth 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.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.