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What Can We Learn From Axcelis Technologies, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:ACLS) Investment Returns?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Axcelis Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:ACLS) 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. 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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.'

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 Axcelis Technologies:

0.10 = US$49m ÷ (US$543m - US$66m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Axcelis Technologies has an ROCE of 10%.

See our latest analysis for Axcelis Technologies

Is Axcelis Technologies's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that Axcelis Technologies's ROCE is fairly close to the Semiconductor industry average of 11%. Aside from the industry comparison, Axcelis Technologies's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

In our analysis, Axcelis Technologies's ROCE appears to be 10%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 8.1%. This makes us think the business might be improving. You can see in the image below how Axcelis Technologies's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:ACLS Past Revenue and Net Income, July 22nd 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Axcelis Technologies.

How Axcelis Technologies's Current Liabilities Impact 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Axcelis Technologies has total assets of US$543m and current liabilities of US$66m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 12% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Axcelis Technologies's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Axcelis Technologies's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

I will like Axcelis Technologies better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.