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Are Thales S.A.’s Returns On Capital Worth Investigating?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Thales S.A. (EPA:HO) 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.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. 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. 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'.

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 Thales:

0.098 = €1.3b ÷ (€31b - €17b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Thales has an ROCE of 9.8%.

View our latest analysis for Thales

Does Thales Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Thales's ROCE appears to be around the 9.9% average of the Aerospace & Defense industry. Independently of how Thales compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

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

ENXTPA:HO Past Revenue and Net Income, February 24th 2020

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Thales.

How Thales's Current Liabilities Impact 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. 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.

Thales has current liabilities of €17b and total assets of €31b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 57% of its total assets. Thales has a relatively high level of current liabilities, boosting its ROCE meaningfully.

What We Can Learn From Thales's ROCE

While its ROCE looks decent, it wouldn't look so good if it reduced current liabilities. Thales 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.

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

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.