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PTC Inc.’s (NASDAQ:PTC) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate PTC Inc. (NASDAQ:PTC) 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. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

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. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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'.

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 PTC:

0.043 = US$92m ÷ (US$2.7b - US$598m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, PTC has an ROCE of 4.3%.

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Does PTC Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, PTC's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 9.7% average in the Software industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Independently of how PTC compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

PTC's current ROCE of 4.3% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 7.6%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NasdaqGS:PTC Past Revenue and Net Income, May 20th 2019

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 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How PTC'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 ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

PTC has total liabilities of US$598m and total assets of US$2.7b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 22% of its total assets. With a very reasonable level of current liabilities, so the impact on ROCE is fairly minimal.

What We Can Learn From PTC's ROCE

PTC has a poor ROCE, and there may be better investment prospects out there. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than PTC. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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