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Lam Research Corporation (NASDAQ:LRCX) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Lam Research Corporation (NASDAQ:LRCX) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding 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.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Lam Research:

0.24 = US$2.4b ÷ (US$12b - US$2.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Lam Research has an ROCE of 24%.

See our latest analysis for Lam Research

Does Lam Research Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, we find that Lam Research's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 9.9% average in the Semiconductor industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, Lam Research's ROCE is currently very good.

Our data shows that Lam Research currently has an ROCE of 24%, compared to its ROCE of 11% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving. You can see in the image below how Lam Research's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:LRCX Past Revenue and Net Income, December 24th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How Lam Research'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 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.

Lam Research has total assets of US$12b and current liabilities of US$2.5b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 20% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Lam Research's ROCE

, Lam Research shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.