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How Good Is Littelfuse, Inc. (NASDAQ:LFUS) At Creating Shareholder Value?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll evaluate Littelfuse, Inc. (NASDAQ:LFUS) 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.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding 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. 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.'

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Littelfuse:

0.11 = US$256m ÷ (US$2.6b - US$270m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Littelfuse has an ROCE of 11%.

Check out our latest analysis for Littelfuse

Is Littelfuse's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. It appears that Littelfuse's ROCE is fairly close to the Electronic industry average of 12%. Separate from Littelfuse's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

The image below shows how Littelfuse's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:LFUS Past Revenue and Net Income, July 17th 2019

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.

Do Littelfuse's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

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

Littelfuse has total assets of US$2.6b and current liabilities of US$270m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 10% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

Our Take On Littelfuse's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Littelfuse could be worth a closer look. There might be better investments than Littelfuse 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.