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# What Can We Learn From TopBuild Corp.’s (NYSE:BLD) Investment Returns?

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Today we'll look at TopBuild Corp. (NYSE:BLD) 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.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

### Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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'.

### 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 TopBuild:

0.11 = US\$230m ÷ (US\$2.5b - US\$444m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, TopBuild has an ROCE of 11%.

### Does TopBuild Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, TopBuild's ROCE appears to be around the 11% average of the Consumer Durables industry. Independently of how TopBuild compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

As we can see, TopBuild currently has an ROCE of 11% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 6.4%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

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 deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for TopBuild.

### What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect TopBuild's ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

TopBuild has total liabilities of US\$444m and total assets of US\$2.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

### The Bottom Line On TopBuild's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, TopBuild could be worth a closer look. You might be able to find a better buy than TopBuild. 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 are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.