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Today we'll look at Nordson Corporation (NASDAQ:NDSN) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.
First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. 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. 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 Nordson:
0.15 = US$468m ÷ (US$3.5b - US$446m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to April 2019.)
So, Nordson has an ROCE of 15%.
Is Nordson's ROCE Good?
One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, we find that Nordson's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 11% 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 Nordson sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.
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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.
What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Nordson'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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.
Nordson has total assets of US$3.5b and current liabilities of US$446m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 13% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.
What We Can Learn From Nordson's ROCE
With that in mind, Nordson's ROCE appears pretty good. There might be better investments than Nordson 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.
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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 email@example.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.