Today we'll evaluate PPK Group Limited (ASX:PPK) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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.
Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?
ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from 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?
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 PPK Group:
0.032 = AU$1.2m ÷ (AU$48m - AU$8.5m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)
So, PPK Group has an ROCE of 3.2%.
Does PPK Group Have A Good ROCE?
When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see PPK Group's ROCE is meaningfully below the Machinery industry average of 8.0%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Regardless of how PPK Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.
PPK Group has an ROCE of 3.2%, but it didn't have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. That suggests the business has returned to profitability. You can see in the image below how PPK Group's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.
Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. How cyclical is PPK Group? You can see for yourself by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.
Do PPK Group'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.
PPK Group has total assets of AU$48m and current liabilities of AU$8.5m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which will have a limited impact on the ROCE.
Our Take On PPK Group's ROCE
While that is good to see, PPK Group has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. You might be able to find a better investment than PPK Group. 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).
PPK Group 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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