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Are J & J Snack Foods Corp.’s (NASDAQ:JJSF) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll evaluate J & J Snack Foods Corp. (NASDAQ:JJSF) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

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 J & J Snack Foods:

0.13 = US$113m ÷ (US$953m - US$112m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, J & J Snack Foods has an ROCE of 13%.

See our latest analysis for J & J Snack Foods

Is J & J Snack Foods's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. J & J Snack Foods's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 8.1% average in the Food 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. Independently of how J & J Snack Foods compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

NasdaqGS:JJSF Past Revenue and Net Income, May 14th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. 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 J & J Snack Foods.

J & J Snack Foods'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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

J & J Snack Foods has total liabilities of US$112m and total assets of US$953m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 12% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On J & J Snack Foods's ROCE

With that in mind, J & J Snack Foods's ROCE appears pretty good. J & J Snack Foods 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.

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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.