U.S. Markets open in 2 hrs 30 mins

Is National Instruments Corporation’s (NASDAQ:NATI) 13% Return On Capital Employed Good News?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at National Instruments Corporation (NASDAQ:NATI) 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. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. 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?

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 National Instruments:

0.13 = US$177m ÷ (US$1.7b - US$306m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, National Instruments has an ROCE of 13%.

Check out our latest analysis for National Instruments

Does National Instruments Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, National Instruments's ROCE appears to be around the 11% average of the Electronic industry. Regardless of where National Instruments sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

In our analysis, National Instruments's ROCE appears to be 13%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 9.7%. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. You can see in the image below how National Instruments's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:NATI Past Revenue and Net Income April 7th 2020

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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for National Instruments.

National Instruments's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

National Instruments has total assets of US$1.7b and current liabilities of US$306m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 19% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

Our Take On National Instruments's ROCE

Overall, National Instruments has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. There might be better investments than National Instruments out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.