U.S. Markets closed

Should Gates Industrial Corporation plc’s (NYSE:GTES) Weak Investment Returns Worry You?

Simply Wall St

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Today we'll evaluate Gates Industrial Corporation plc (NYSE:GTES) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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'.

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 Gates Industrial:

0.073 = US$495m ÷ (US$7.4b - US$642m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Gates Industrial has an ROCE of 7.3%.

Check out our latest analysis for Gates Industrial

Is Gates Industrial's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, Gates Industrial's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 11% average reported by the Machinery industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Gates Industrial's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

In our analysis, Gates Industrial's ROCE appears to be 7.3%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 4.5%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NYSE:GTES Past Revenue and Net Income, June 3rd 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Gates Industrial's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its 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.

Gates Industrial has total liabilities of US$642m and total assets of US$7.4b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 8.6% of its total assets. Gates Industrial has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

Our Take On Gates Industrial's ROCE

If performance improves, then Gates Industrial may be an OK investment, especially at the right valuation. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

I will like Gates Industrial better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.