U.S. Markets closed

Has nVent Electric plc (NYSE:NVT) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Today we are going to look at nVent Electric plc (NYSE:NVT) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First of all, we'll work out how to 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 is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 nVent Electric:

0.088 = US$360m ÷ (US$4.5b - US$410m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, nVent Electric has an ROCE of 8.8%.

See our latest analysis for nVent Electric

Is nVent Electric's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see nVent Electric's ROCE is around the 11% average reported by the Electrical industry. Separate from how nVent Electric stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

The image below shows how nVent Electric's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:NVT Past Revenue and Net Income, July 1st 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for nVent Electric.

nVent Electric'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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

nVent Electric has total assets of US$4.5b and current liabilities of US$410m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 9.2% of its total assets. With low levels of current liabilities, at least nVent Electric's mediocre ROCE is not unduly boosted.

What We Can Learn From nVent Electric's ROCE

nVent Electric looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.