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How Do Nam Cheong Limited’s (SGX:N4E) Returns On Capital Compare To Peers?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Nam Cheong Limited (SGX:N4E) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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 is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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.

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 Nam Cheong:

0.04 = RM34m ÷ (RM1.2b - RM307m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Nam Cheong has an ROCE of 4.0%.

See our latest analysis for Nam Cheong

Is Nam Cheong's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Nam Cheong's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 6.9% average in the Machinery industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Putting aside Nam Cheong's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor - considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

Our data shows that Nam Cheong currently has an ROCE of 4.0%, compared to its ROCE of 1.1% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving. The image below shows how Nam Cheong's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

SGX:N4E Past Revenue and Net Income, January 15th 2020

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. How cyclical is Nam Cheong? You can see for yourself by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Nam Cheong's ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Nam Cheong has total assets of RM1.2b and current liabilities of RM307m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 26% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which will have a limited impact on the ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Nam Cheong's ROCE

That's not a bad thing, however Nam Cheong has a weak ROCE and may not be an attractive investment. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. 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).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.