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Here's What Silicom Ltd.'s (NASDAQ:SILC) ROCE Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Silicom Ltd. (NASDAQ:SILC) 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.

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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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'.

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 Silicom:

0.097 = US$16m ÷ (US$189m - US$19m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Silicom has an ROCE of 9.7%.

Check out our latest analysis for Silicom

Is Silicom's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Silicom's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 6.6% average in the Communications industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Aside from the industry comparison, Silicom's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Silicom's current ROCE of 9.7% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 13%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. You can see in the image below how Silicom's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:SILC Past Revenue and Net Income, September 9th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Silicom.

Silicom's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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.

Silicom has total liabilities of US$19m and total assets of US$189m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 10% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Silicom's ROCE

That said, Silicom's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better investment than Silicom. 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).

I will like Silicom better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.