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Is Innophos Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:IPHS) Struggling With Its 8.5% Return On Capital Employed?

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Today we are going to look at Innophos Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:IPHS) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Innophos Holdings:

0.085 = US$65m ÷ (US$865m - US$105m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Innophos Holdings has an ROCE of 8.5%.

See our latest analysis for Innophos Holdings

Does Innophos Holdings Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In this analysis, Innophos Holdings's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 11% average reported by the Chemicals industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Innophos Holdings stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

Innophos Holdings's current ROCE of 8.5% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 12% ROCE. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NasdaqGS:IPHS Past Revenue and Net Income, June 18th 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. 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.

Do Innophos Holdings's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Innophos Holdings has total liabilities of US$105m and total assets of US$865m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 12% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Innophos Holdings's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Innophos Holdings's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Innophos Holdings. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.