Today we are going to look at The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. (NYSE:GBX) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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.
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.
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.'
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 Greenbrier Companies:
0.068 = US$137m ÷ (US$2.5b - US$499m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to May 2019.)
Therefore, Greenbrier Companies has an ROCE of 6.8%.
Is Greenbrier Companies's ROCE Good?
One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In this analysis, Greenbrier Companies's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% 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, Greenbrier Companies's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.
Greenbrier Companies's current ROCE of 6.8% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 32% ROCE. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently. The image below shows how Greenbrier Companies's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.
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, 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 Greenbrier Companies'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. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.
Greenbrier Companies has total liabilities of US$499m and total assets of US$2.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 20% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.
What We Can Learn From Greenbrier Companies's ROCE
With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Greenbrier Companies's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better investment than Greenbrier Companies. 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).
If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.