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Pointer Telocation Ltd. (NASDAQ:PNTR) Earns A Nice Return On Capital Employed

Daryl Painter

Today we’ll look at Pointer Telocation Ltd. (NASDAQ:PNTR) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Pointer Telocation:

0.14 = US$10m ÷ (US$89m – US$17m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Pointer Telocation has an ROCE of 14%.

View our latest analysis for Pointer Telocation

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Is Pointer Telocation’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In our analysis, Pointer Telocation’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 11% average in the Commercial Services industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of where Pointer Telocation 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, Pointer Telocation currently has an ROCE of 14% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 9.8%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NASDAQCM:PNTR Last Perf January 30th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Pointer Telocation.

How Pointer Telocation’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Pointer Telocation has total assets of US$89m and current liabilities of US$17m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 19% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Pointer Telocation’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Pointer Telocation could be worth a closer look. But note: Pointer Telocation may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

I will like Pointer Telocation better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.