U.S. Markets closed

Medtronic plc’s (NYSE:MDT) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Medtronic plc (NYSE:MDT) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. 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'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Medtronic:

0.082 = US$6.8b ÷ (US$91b - US$8.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to July 2019.)

So, Medtronic has an ROCE of 8.2%.

See our latest analysis for Medtronic

Does Medtronic Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Medtronic's ROCE is meaningfully below the Medical Equipment industry average of 10%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Aside from the industry comparison, Medtronic's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

In our analysis, Medtronic's ROCE appears to be 8.2%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 6.5%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Medtronic's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:MDT Past Revenue and Net Income, September 2nd 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during 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 Medtronic.

Medtronic's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Medtronic has total liabilities of US$8.5b and total assets of US$91b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 9.3% of its total assets. Medtronic has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Medtronic's ROCE

Based on this information, Medtronic appears to be a mediocre business. 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 Medtronic 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.