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Shareholders Should Look Hard At Airgain, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AIRG) 6.1% Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Airgain, Inc. (NASDAQ:AIRG) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the 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 is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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.'

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Airgain:

0.061 = US$2.9m ÷ (US$56m - US$8.0m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Airgain has an ROCE of 6.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for Airgain

Is Airgain's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Airgain's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Electronic industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Airgain's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Airgain's current ROCE of 6.1% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 18%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. The image below shows how Airgain's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqCM:AIRG Past Revenue and Net Income, September 12th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Airgain.

Airgain's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Airgain has total liabilities of US$8.0m and total assets of US$56m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 14% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Airgain's ROCE

If Airgain continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. 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.

I will like Airgain 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.