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Navistar International Corporation (NYSE:NAV) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

Pam Parks

Today we are going to look at Navistar International Corporation (NYSE:NAV) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. In particular, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding 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. 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 Navistar International:

0.19 = US$638m ÷ (US$7.2b – US$3.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2018.)

Therefore, Navistar International has an ROCE of 19%.

See our latest analysis for Navistar International

Does Navistar International Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Navistar International’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 12% average in the Machinery industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where Navistar International sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

As we can see, Navistar International currently has an ROCE of 19% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 7.8%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NYSE:NAV Last Perf January 24th 19

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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 only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Navistar International.

Do Navistar International’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Navistar International has total assets of US$7.2b and current liabilities of US$3.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 53% of its total assets. This is admittedly a high level of current liabilities, improving ROCE substantially.

What We Can Learn From Navistar International’s ROCE

This ROCE is pretty good, but remember that it would look less impressive with fewer current liabilities. You might be able to find a better buy than Navistar International. 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).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.