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How Good Is Trifast plc (LON:TRI) At Creating Shareholder Value?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Trifast plc (LON:TRI) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Trifast:

0.15 = UK£20m ÷ (UK£205m - UK£72m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Trifast has an ROCE of 15%.

See our latest analysis for Trifast

Is Trifast's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that Trifast's ROCE is fairly close to the Machinery industry average of 13%. Regardless of where Trifast 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 Trifast's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

LSE:TRI Past Revenue and Net Income, August 31st 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 Trifast's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Trifast has total assets of UK£205m and current liabilities of UK£72m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 35% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, Trifast's ROCE is boosted somewhat.

The Bottom Line On Trifast's ROCE

Trifast's ROCE does look good, but the level of current liabilities also contribute to that. There might be better investments than Trifast 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.