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Is Neenah, Inc.’s (NYSE:NP) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Neenah, Inc. (NYSE:NP) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Neenah:

0.096 = US$72m ÷ (US$858m - US$115m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Neenah has an ROCE of 9.6%.

View our latest analysis for Neenah

Is Neenah's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. It appears that Neenah's ROCE is fairly close to the Forestry industry average of 10%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Neenah's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Neenah's current ROCE of 9.6% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 18% ROCE. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently. The image below shows how Neenah's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:NP Past Revenue and Net Income, September 16th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Neenah.

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

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Neenah has total liabilities of US$115m and total assets of US$858m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 13% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Neenah's ROCE

If Neenah continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better investment than Neenah. 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 are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.