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Is Laserbond Limited (ASX:LBL) Investing Your Capital Efficiently?

Gabriel Boyd

Today we’ll look at Laserbond Limited (ASX:LBL) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

First, we’ll go over how we 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 amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Laserbond:

0.091 = AU$848k ÷ (AU$13m – AU$3.3m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Therefore, Laserbond has an ROCE of 9.1%.

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Is Laserbond’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Laserbond’s ROCE is around the 8.5% average reported by the Machinery industry. Separate from how Laserbond stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Our data shows that Laserbond currently has an ROCE of 9.1%, compared to its ROCE of 4.4% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

ASX:LBL Last Perf January 14th 19

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. How cyclical is Laserbond? You can see for yourself by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Laserbond’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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.

Laserbond has total liabilities of AU$3.3m and total assets of AU$13m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 26% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Laserbond’s ROCE

If Laserbond continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Laserbond. 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).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.