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A.P. Eagers Limited’s (ASX:APE) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate A.P. Eagers Limited (ASX:APE) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. 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.

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 A.P. Eagers:

0.12 = AU$140m ÷ (AU$2.2b - AU$989m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, A.P. Eagers has an ROCE of 12%.

View our latest analysis for A.P. Eagers

Does A.P. Eagers Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In this analysis, A.P. Eagers's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 16% average reported by the Specialty Retail industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Regardless of where A.P. Eagers sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

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

ASX:APE Past Revenue and Net Income, December 21st 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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, 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 A.P. Eagers.

Do A.P. Eagers's Current Liabilities Skew Its 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

A.P. Eagers has total liabilities of AU$989m and total assets of AU$2.2b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 46% of its total assets. A.P. Eagers has a middling amount of current liabilities, increasing its ROCE somewhat.

The Bottom Line On A.P. Eagers's ROCE

A.P. Eagers's ROCE does look good, but the level of current liabilities also contribute to that. A.P. Eagers looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

A.P. Eagers is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.