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Are Stryker Corporation’s (NYSE:SYK) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Stryker Corporation (NYSE:SYK) 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

Or for Stryker:

0.15 = US$3.4b ÷ (US$27b - US$3.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Stryker has an ROCE of 15%.

View our latest analysis for Stryker

Does Stryker Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Stryker's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 9.4% average in the Medical Equipment industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Separate from Stryker's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

You can see in the image below how Stryker's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:SYK Past Revenue and Net Income, November 14th 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.

Stryker's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Stryker has total liabilities of US$3.9b and total assets of US$27b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 15% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Stryker's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Stryker could be worth a closer look. Stryker shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

I will like Stryker 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.