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Here's What Applied Materials, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:AMAT) ROCE Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Applied Materials, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT) and reflect on its potential as an investment. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

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

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?

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 Applied Materials:

0.23 = US$3.4b ÷ (US$19b - US$4.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2019.)

So, Applied Materials has an ROCE of 23%.

Check out our latest analysis for Applied Materials

Is Applied Materials's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Applied Materials's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 10% average in the Semiconductor industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Applied Materials's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

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

NasdaqGS:AMAT Past Revenue and Net Income, December 8th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Applied Materials.

Do Applied Materials'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. 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.

Applied Materials has total liabilities of US$4.4b and total assets of US$19b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 23% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Applied Materials's ROCE

With low current liabilities and a high ROCE, Applied Materials could be worthy of further investigation. Applied Materials shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.