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SPX Corporation (NYSE:SPXC) Might Not Be A Great Investment

Today we are going to look at SPX Corporation (NYSE:SPXC) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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) Ã· (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

Or for SPX:

0.071 = US\$113m Ã· (US\$2.1b - US\$467m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, SPX has an ROCE of 7.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for SPX

Is SPX's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see SPX's ROCE is meaningfully below the Machinery industry average of 11%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how SPX stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how SPX's past growth compares to other companies.

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for SPX.

How SPX'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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

SPX has total liabilities of US\$467m and total assets of US\$2.1b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 23% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From SPX's ROCE

That said, SPX's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than SPX. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.