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Tetra Tech, Inc. (NASDAQ:TTEK) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

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Today weâ€™ll evaluate Tetra Tech, Inc. (NASDAQ:TTEK) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, weâ€™ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First up, weâ€™ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, weâ€™ll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, weâ€™ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a measure of a companyâ€™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. Renowned investment researcher Michael Mauboussin has suggested that a high ROCE can indicate that â€˜one dollar invested in the company generates value of more than one dollarâ€™.

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) Ã· (Total Assets â€“ Current Liabilities)

Or for Tetra Tech:

0.16 = US\$196m Ã· (US\$1.8b â€“ US\$532m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Tetra Tech has an ROCE of 16%.

Does Tetra Tech Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In our analysis, Tetra Techâ€™s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 11% average in the Commercial Services industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where Tetra Tech sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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 only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Tetra Tech.

Do Tetra Techâ€™s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Tetra Tech has total liabilities of US\$532m and total assets of US\$1.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 29% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Tetra Techâ€™s ROCE

With that in mind, Tetra Techâ€™s ROCE appears pretty good. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Tetra Tech. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.