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Snap-on Incorporated (NYSE:SNA) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

Simply Wall St

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Today we are going to look at Snap-on Incorporated (NYSE:SNA) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. 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'.

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 Snap-on:

0.21 = US$960m ÷ (US$5.5b - US$936m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Snap-on has an ROCE of 21%.

View our latest analysis for Snap-on

Is Snap-on's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In our analysis, Snap-on's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 11% average in the Machinery industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Snap-on's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

NYSE:SNA Past Revenue and Net Income, April 30th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How Snap-on's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Snap-on has total assets of US$5.5b and current liabilities of US$936m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 17% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Snap-on's ROCE

With low current liabilities and a high ROCE, Snap-on could be worthy of further investigation. There might be better investments than Snap-on out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

I will like Snap-on 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.