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Howden Joinery Group Plc (LON:HWDN) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Howden Joinery Group Plc (LON:HWDN) 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.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is 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. 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?

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 Howden Joinery Group:

0.43 = UK£247m ÷ (UK£893m - UK£324m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Howden Joinery Group has an ROCE of 43%.

Check out our latest analysis for Howden Joinery Group

Is Howden Joinery Group's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, Howden Joinery Group's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 13% average in the Trade Distributors 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, Howden Joinery Group's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

You can see in the image below how Howden Joinery Group's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

LSE:HWDN Past Revenue and Net Income, January 22nd 2020

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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Howden Joinery Group.

How Howden Joinery Group's Current Liabilities Impact 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.

Howden Joinery Group has total liabilities of UK£324m and total assets of UK£893m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 36% of its total assets. Howden Joinery Group's ROCE is boosted somewhat by its middling amount of current liabilities.

What We Can Learn From Howden Joinery Group's ROCE

Despite this, it reports a high ROCE, and may be worth investigating further. There might be better investments than Howden Joinery Group 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.

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.