Today we'll look at Leonardo S.p.a. (BIT:LDO) 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. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 Leonardo:
0.089 = €998m ÷ (€17b - €6.3b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)
So, Leonardo has an ROCE of 8.9%.
Is Leonardo's ROCE Good?
When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Leonardo's ROCE is around the 9.9% average reported by the Aerospace & Defense industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Leonardo's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.
You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Leonardo's past growth compares to other companies.
When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Leonardo.
What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Leonardo's ROCE?
Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.
Leonardo has total assets of €17b and current liabilities of €6.3b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 36% of its total assets. Leonardo has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.
What We Can Learn From Leonardo's ROCE
Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. You might be able to find a better investment than Leonardo. 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).
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 email@example.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.