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Is There More To Muehlhan AG (ETR:M4N) Than Its 9.7% Returns On Capital?

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Today we’ll look at Muehlhan AG (ETR:M4N) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 Muehlhan:

0.097 = €8.1m ÷ (€155m – €76m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Muehlhan has an ROCE of 9.7%.

See our latest analysis for Muehlhan

Is Muehlhan’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Muehlhan’s ROCE is fairly close to the Construction industry average of 12%. Regardless of where Muehlhan sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

In our analysis, Muehlhan’s ROCE appears to be 9.7%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 5.7%. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly.

XTRA:M4N Past Revenue and Net Income, March 5th 2019
XTRA:M4N Past Revenue and Net Income, March 5th 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. 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.

Do Muehlhan’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Muehlhan has total assets of €155m and current liabilities of €76m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 49% of its total assets. Muehlhan has a middling amount of current liabilities, increasing its ROCE somewhat.

The Bottom Line On Muehlhan’s ROCE

While its ROCE looks good, it’s worth remembering that the current liabilities are making the business look better. But note: Muehlhan may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.