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Is There More To Quad/Graphics, Inc. (NYSE:QUAD) Than Its 9.9% Returns On Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we’ll evaluate Quad/Graphics, Inc. (NYSE:QUAD) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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?

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 Quad/Graphics:

0.099 = US$161m ÷ (US$2.5b – US$851m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Quad/Graphics has an ROCE of 9.9%.

Check out our latest analysis for Quad/Graphics

Does Quad/Graphics Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Quad/Graphics’s ROCE is around the 10% average reported by the Commercial Services industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Quad/Graphics’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

In our analysis, Quad/Graphics’s ROCE appears to be 9.9%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 7.0%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NYSE:QUAD Past Revenue and Net Income, March 5th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Quad/Graphics’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Quad/Graphics has total assets of US$2.5b and current liabilities of US$851m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 34% of its total assets. Quad/Graphics has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Quad/Graphics’s ROCE

Unfortunately, its ROCE is still uninspiring, and there are potentially more attractive prospects out there. You might be able to find a better buy than Quad/Graphics. 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 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.