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Is Gibraltar Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:ROCK) Better Than Average At Deploying Capital?

Sebastian Eder

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Today we are going to look at Gibraltar Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ:ROCK) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Gibraltar Industries:

0.12 = US$99m ÷ (US$1.1b – US$192m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Gibraltar Industries has an ROCE of 12%.

View our latest analysis for Gibraltar Industries

Does Gibraltar Industries Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Gibraltar Industries’s ROCE is around the 14% average reported by the Building industry. Independently of how Gibraltar Industries compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

Our data shows that Gibraltar Industries currently has an ROCE of 12%, compared to its ROCE of 7.0% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly.

NASDAQGS:ROCK Last Perf February 5th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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.

Do Gibraltar Industries’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

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

Gibraltar Industries has total liabilities of US$192m and total assets of US$1.1b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On Gibraltar Industries’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Gibraltar Industries could be worth a closer look. You might be able to find a better buy than Gibraltar Industries. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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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.