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What Can We Make Of IDEX Corporation’s (NYSE:IEX) High Return On Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at IDEX Corporation (NYSE:IEX) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 IDEX:

0.18 = US$597m ÷ (US$3.6b - US$362m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, IDEX has an ROCE of 18%.

View our latest analysis for IDEX

Is IDEX's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, IDEX's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 12% average in the Machinery industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Regardless of where IDEX 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 IDEX's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:IEX Past Revenue and Net Income, October 30th 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. 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 IDEX.

Do IDEX's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

IDEX has total assets of US$3.6b and current liabilities of US$362m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 9.9% of its total assets. Low current liabilities have only a minimal impact on IDEX's ROCE, making its decent returns more credible.

The Bottom Line On IDEX's ROCE

This is good to see, and while better prospects may exist, IDEX seems worth researching further. IDEX looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

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

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.